Israel has made a $3 billion deal with Lockheed Martin to purchase a third squadron of F-35 fighter jets, the Israeli Ministry of Defense has announced. The squadron will consist of 25 stealth jets, bringing Israel’s total number of F-35s to 75.
The new jets will be purchased using the defense aid package that Israel receives from the U.S.
Israel’s first use of the stealth jets was for combat in 2018 when Tel Aviv bombed Syria and Israel was the first foreign country to receive the U.S.-made fighter jet.
At the time that Israel received its first squadron of F-35s Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin said, “The F-35 squadron has become an operational squadron. We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East — we might be the first to attack with F-35 in the Middle East.” Norkin also showed an image of an F-35 flying over Beirut at the time of his remarks.
The F-35 is considered the most expensive weapons system in history as its development and production costs have come in at a sizeable $1.5 trillion, much of which was paid for by the U.S. military.
Israel’s constant concern about Iran is at the center of the country’s efforts to increase its F-35 squadrons. Israeli officials have said that the F-35 is critical to what they call the “war between wars” against Iranian-supported groups of the Syrian military. The jets could also be used should Israel ever decide to strike Iran’s nuclear program.
Israeli combat aircraft bombed Syrian sites prior to the announcement of the new F-35s on Sunday. According to Syrian state-run media, SANA, the “Israeli enemy carried out an air aggression from the direction northeast of Beirut, targeting some points in the vicinity of the city of Homs.”
While no casualties were reported in the Syrian attack, there was material damage. Including the most recent strike, Israel has bombed Syria a total of 19 times in 2023, including 13 times since a massive earthquake leveled parts of the country in February.
The Israeli air force has continuously bombed Syria since 2011 when the U.S. launched a covert war against Damascus. While at the time, Israeli officials claimed to have nothing to do with the war, in 2013, the same officials noted that they had hoped to depose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the beginning of the war.
Later reports also stated that the Israeli air force had bombed Syrian army positions to assist with war efforts on the part of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front.