F-35 Lightning II
F-35 Lightning II Israel news photo: US Air Force

Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced on Sunday formal approval for purchasing the American F-35 Stealth fighter plane. Imminent completion of the deal has been rumored for nearly a month.

The F-35 plane in Israel "will give the Air Force the best capability in the short and long range and allow Israel to maintain aerial superiority,” he said in a statement.  

The confirmation comes at the same time that Saudi Arabia and the United States are completing deals for $60 billion for more than 80 F-15 planes and more than 130 attack helicopters. Purchasing the F-35 may alleviate worries that the weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries will destroy Israel’s military advantage.

A Pentagon official said last month that “the ball is in their [Israel’s] court to close a $3 billion to buy 19 of the warplanes. Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter aircraft, is known to be anxious over sales because of European countries’ reviews of spending programs.

The manufacturer has promoted the F-35 as the centerpiece for 21st century global security while strengthening international political and industrial partnerships. The fighter plane combines advanced stealth with fighter speed and agility, fully fused sensor information, network-enabled operations and advanced sustainment.

Barak did not comment on whether the United States accepted Israel’s demand to incorporate Israeli systems in the plane. 

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