Israeli defense firms have raked in nearly NIS 4 billion ($1.07 billion) from projects related to the F-35 fighter jet since 2010, the Defense Ministry said Sunday.
The past year also saw a 33 percent jump in the value of orders over previous years. In 2016, approximately NIS 1 billion ($258 million) in new deals were signed between Lockheed-Martin — the manufacturer of the F-35 — and Israeli defense contractors, the ministry said.
In total, Israeli companies have made approximately NIS 3.9 billion ($1.033 billion) in deals connected to the F-35 project, the ministry said.
“The breadth of the manufacturing partnership between the Adir’s producers and Israeli industry, in just the last year, shows the immense potential inherent in this arrangement for the Israeli economy,” said Col. (res.) Avi Dadon, deputy director-general of the Defense Ministry, using the F-35’s Hebrew name.
A large chunk of the expected NIS 1 billion — NIS 772 million ($206 million) — will go to Elbit Systems and the American Rockwell Collins, which are manufacturing a state-of-the-art helmet for the F-35 fighter jet in a joint project.
The screen-filled helmet is designed to give the pilot a 360-degree view from the cockpit, with cameras hooked up around the aircraft. When looking down, the pilots won’t see their legs but rather the sky beneath their jet.
Another NIS 62.3 million ($16.6 million) will go to Elbit Systems’ factory in the northern Israeli town of Carmiel, which is helping manufacture the F-35’s body.
And some NIS 97 million ($26 million) in contracts will go to Israel Aerospace Industries, which is manufacturing the jet’s wings, the Defense Ministry said.
Another approximately NIS 35 million ($9.4 million) is split up among a number of other companies throughout the country who are involved in making the F-35’s radio, simulator and other parts of the aircraft.
The F-35 is considered the most expensive weapons project in the history of the world, with a current development and acquisition price tag of $379 billion for a total of 2,443 F-35 aircraft. Most of these will go to the US Air Force, but 50 have been purchased by Israel thus far.
In December 2016, Israel received its first two F-35 fighter jets.
Each fifth-generation stealth fighter costs approximately NIS 375 million ($100 million), depending on its type and features, though that price is liable to go down slightly as more are produced.
US President Donald Trump has called for bringing down the cost of the F-35 program, which he referred to as “very, very expensive.”
Last month, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis ordered a review of the program, including examining the possibility that the cheaper, but not stealth, F-18 Hornet could replace it.
“The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is a critical acquisition program that warrants a detailed assessment to reduce associated program costs,” Mattis said in the order.
Lockheed-Martin said it “welcomes” the review and noted that many of the program’s costs would come down as it produced more planes.
“We are confident such a thorough and objective analysis will show that only the F-35, with its advanced stealth and sensors, can meet the 21st century air superiority requirements of all of our military services,” the company said.
AFP contributed to this report.