Jerusalem: Israel`s Defence Minister Ehud
Barak approved the purchase of a fleet of US-built F-35 strike fighters in a move set to ramp up the capabilities of the Israeli Air Force.
The minister "approved in principle" a recommendation by
the military to purchase the F-35 or Joint Strike Fighter
(JSF) on Sunday, a statement from his office said.
Israel is initially expected to buy 20 of the aircraft in
a deal worth an estimated 2.75 billion dollars, the
top-selling Yediot Aharonot daily said in several reports
published last week.
Should the deal be approved by the security cabinet, it
will be the most expensive weapons deal ever signed by the
Jewish state, it said.
"The F-35 is the fighter plane of the future which will
give the air force better short-range and long-range
capabilities which will help state security," Barak said in
Delivery of the first F-35s, which are still not yet
operational, is expected only in 2015, the paper said.
The price includes the cost of setting up a logistical
infrastructure in Israel to allow local firms to manufacture
spare parts for it.
Udi Shani, defence ministry director general, said a key
element of the deal was an agreement which would allow Israeli
industries to get involved in the assembly of the plane and
the manufacture of spares.
"The considerations for approving the deal were not just
about the operational abilities of the plane but the
agreements for involving Israeli industries in the assembly of
the plane," the ministry quoted him as saying.