There is an understanding between Israel and the United States that Israel needs 17 additional F-35 fighters (IAF designation 'Adir'), beyond the 33 already ordered, to form a 50-aircraft fleet. However, a senior defense official told Israel Defense that the Israeli Air Force (IAF) is interested in 75 stealth fighters in total. Tomorrow (Wednesday), a rollout ceremony of the first stealth fighter designated for the IAF will take place in Fort Worth, Texas. The ceremony will be attended by the Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and the Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Tzachi Hanegbi, until recently chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
The decision regarding the 17 additional aircraft will be made at a later date. It will be dependent in part on the progress of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Israel and the United States and on Israel's defense budget. Under the MOU between the two governments, the Americans have agreed to sell Israel 75 F-35 fighters (comprising three squadrons). Thus far, as stated, Israel had purchased 33 aircraft.
The first purchase agreement includes 19 'Adir' fighters, at a total cost of US $2.7 billion. The first two aircraft are to be delivered during the second half of 2016, and will be used to train pilots at the Luke Air Force Base in Arizona. The first jets are scheduled to touch ground at the Nevatim Air Force Base in December 2016, and the rest of the planes will arrive to Israel in 2017-2018. In November 2014, the Israeli government decided to purchase 14 additional aircraft for the second F-35 squadron to be established in 2019. Lockheed Martin confirmed that the IAF would like to purchase 50 aircraft in total. (In comparison: Lockheed Martin has provided Israel with 102 specially designed F-16I aircraft, which was Israel's sixth acquisition of F-16. Israel possesses the largest fleet of F-16's outside the US).
Cooperation of defense industries: The collaborations of Lockheed Martin with Israeli industries, which are valued over four billion dollars, include 800 pairs of wings produced at IAI's 'Lahav' plant; the pilot's helmet, which is produced in cooperation with Elbit Systems and Rockwell Collins; and other systems developed by leading Israeli companies. Other major collaborations are expected with the Pratt & Whitney engine manufacturer.
Network: The F-35 will be integrated into the "Network IDF" plan. The pilot of the stealth fighter will not only see what his aircraft sensors recognize, but a composite image of data, collected by other aircraft and transmitted in secure networks to commanders and decision makers. A fifth generation aircraft such as the F-35 allows the pilot to launch munitions before the enemy ever sees it coming.
Identifying Threats: the 'Adir' is equipped with a multi-purpose radar and electronic steering. Special sensors are scattered throughout the plane and provide, using sophisticated algorithms, a complete picture of the threat environment and the presence of friendly forces on the pilot's helmet visor.
Simulators: full flight simulators for training the F-35 pilots are due to arrive at the Nevatim Air Force Base in 2017 and will be identical to the real aircraft, including the 3D screens in the cockpit. Lockheed Martin claims that 60 hours of simulator training are sufficient for a pilot to be able to fly operational missions in the F-35.
Pilots: The first F-35 squadron was appointed a commander and five other pilots, who will undergo special training in the US. This team should train the future pilots of the first squadron, which will be comprised of 19 aircraft.
Cost: The estimated cost of the F-35 model to be supplied to Israel is US $85 million. The cost of the aircraft dropped by 57 percent compared to the cost of the first manufactured aircraft.
Experiments: So far, there have been several successful experiments, including the launch of an air-to-air guided missile, the dropping of a GBU-32 type JDAM and the dropping of another 900-kg bomb on a target in the California desert.