Israel said Sunday that it will buy 14 more next-generation F-35 fighter jets for about $3 billion.
The deal adds to the fleet of 19 U.S-made jets already ordered in 2010, the Defense Ministry said. The recent deal with Lockheed Martin, which builds the jets in west Fort Worth, includes an option for 17 more in the future. Israel is expected to take delivery of its first F-35s in 2016.
Reports that Israel was considering buying more F-35s circulated last fall after Lockheed and the Pentagon reached agreement on a new production contract for 43 more F-35 fighter jets, which is projected to lower the price per plane by 3.6 percent. The first planes for Israel will be built as part of that contract.
Israel is among nearly a dozen foreign countries are buying the stealth fighter jet. They include Britain, Italy, Australia, Canada, Turkey, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea and Japan.
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The F-35 is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapon program, with an estimated cost of nearly $400 billion. The program aims to replace a wide range of existing aircraft for the U.S. and several partner countries.
More than 6,000 people work directly on the F-35 program in Fort Worth, and Lockheed officials have said that upward of 1,000 jobs could be added over several years as production increases.
Last summer, the U.S. military’s fleet was grounded after an engine caught fire on an F-35 at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, forcing the Pentagon to cancel the plane’s scheduled appearance at the high-profile Farnborough International Airshow in England. Officials later said they identified the source of the problem, which wouldn’t derail plans to boost production.
Lockheed has logged about 700 of its roughly 3,000 orders for the F-35 from international buyers. CEO Marillyn Hewson said last week that she sees the jet’s total sales over time reaching about 4,500 units, on par with the F-16, now the world’s top-selling warplane.
This report includes material from Bloomberg News and the Star-Telegram archives.