Israel has signed a $2.75 billion deal with the United States to buy 20 American-made F-35 stealth fighter jets, bolstering the country’s military power with an aircraft Israel says will enhance its ability to defend itself from threats anywhere in the Middle East.Israeli Defense Ministry Director-General Ehud Shani said at Thursday’s signing ceremony in New York that delivery of the jets is expected between 2015 and 2017 and that Israel has the option to purchase 55 more aircraft after that.Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., called the contract “an event of great strategic and historic significance”.Israel considers Iran a strategic threat, and the warplanes would be capable of reaching the Islamic Republic undetected by radar. Israel cites Iran’s calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, its suspect nuclear program and its missiles as reasons for the threat.
Israel has hinted it may take military action if international efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program fail.An Israeli statement released Thursday said each F-35 jet cost about $96 million in a deal that includes simulators, spare parts and maintenance. The agreement was signed after seven years of negotiations.The United States is co-developing the F-35 with eight foreign partners — Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Canada, Australia, Denmark and Norway.Together, these countries have been projected to buy about 730 planes. Israel will be the first nation outside this group to receive the F-35 – Voanews