Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Israel announced this weekend it is acquiring 17 additional F-35 Lightning II multi-role fighters from Lockheed Martin, which will bring the Israeli Air Force fleet of the jets to 50.
The Israeli Ministry of Defense said Israel currently has five of the stealth fighters in its possession. Thirty three F-35s are to be delivered by 2021, and a new batch is expected to be ordered by 2024.
"The completion of the deal to purchase 17 additional F-35s is a significant and strategic addition to the air force, and the two pilots of the Adir are the technological summit, and will help the IDF and the Air Force deal with the many security challenges facing the State of Israel, and will be a central element in protecting the security of Israeli citizens along the borders and even away from them," Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a news release.
"The signing of the transaction is further evidence of the depth of the relationship and security relations between our great friend the United States and the State of Israel."
The Times of Israel newspaper said Israel decided on the additional purchase last year, but details of the purchase agreement had to be worked out with the United States and Lockheed Martin.
The new F-35s, called the Adir by Israel, are being bought at a price of less than $100 million each -- excluding the costs of additional maintenance and support equipment. The planes will be in the conventional takeoff and landing "A" variant.
The Israeli version of the aircraft features Israeli armaments and special equipment.