JERUSALEM --- Israel has issued an official Letter of Request (LOR) to the Pentagon for the purchase of its first squadron of advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs). The F-35 is intended to eventually replace the Israeli Air Force (IAF) fleet of F-15I and F-16I jet fighters.
Israel still plans to continue negotiations on the final unit price of the aircraft, as well as integrating Israeli technologies into the planes. The final contract is expected to be signed in early 2010, with the LOR marking a first step in the final contractual process. Israel ultimately plans to purchase 75 F-35s that will make up three squadrons of 25 aircraft each.
The first batch of F-35s are likely to be in the Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) configuration, while later models will be a mix of the CTOL and Short Take-Off Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant.
Israel has been a Security Cooperation Participant (SCP) in the nine-nation JSF program since 2003, an involvement that has made it familiar with characteristics of the F-35, but does not give it any say in decisions regarding the program.