Minister: Israel Set to Halve 2nd Order of F-35 Fighters

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -

Israel is set to place a second order for between 10 and 15 U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets, around half the number previously mentioned by defense sources in both countries, an Israeli cabinet minister said on Monday.

Israel bought 19 F-35s for $2.75 billion in 2010, with delivery scheduled between 2016 and 2018. Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, visiting the United States last month, agreed to a preliminary deal for 25 to 31 more planes, subject to approval by an Israeli ministerial committee, sources said.

One committee member, Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, told Reuters there was majority opposition to the scale of Yaalon’s order and preference for a smaller purchase of 10 to 15 planes. A final decision is due in the coming days.

A reduced Israeli purchase may dent international confidence in the plane that is being developed and built by Lockheed Martin for U.S. military and allies — a $399 billion endeavor that is the world’s most expensive weapons program.