(AFP) – Sep 16, 2010
JERUSALEM — The Israeli government said Thursday it had given final approval to the purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets from the United States, in one of the Jewish state's largest-ever arms purchases.
"Purchasing the most advanced fighter jets in the world is an important step in strengthening the state of Israel's military power," a statement quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as saying.
The decision by a ministerial committee headed by Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak marked the final approval for the move that was announced last month by Barak.
The statement did not specify the number of jets Israel planned to buy. However, media reports have indicated Israel was looking to initially purchase 20 of the aircraft in a deal worth an estimated 2.75 billion dollars (2.1 billion euros).
Deliveries of the first F-35s, which are not yet operational, are expected only in 2015.
Defence ministry officials have 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.
Acquisition of the F-35, which is made by US aerospace and defence giant Lockheed Martin, will give Israel access to stealth technology that will provide it with air superiority over enemy anti-aircraft defences.
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