Two additional F-35 stealth fighter jets lifted off from the US on Wednesday morning on their way to Israel, the sixth and seventh planes to be delivered out of the 50 Israel has purchased from the US to upgrade the capabilities of its air force.
The planes, called “Adir” in Hebrew, are expected to land in Israel on Thursday, a week and a half later than originally scheduled.
Late last month, the IDF announced the planes’ arrival would be delayed after a technical issue was found in another version of the aircraft.
According to military officials, the F-35 is expected to be cleared for full operational use by the end of this year.
Israel was the first country besides the United States to receive the F-35, and it has championed the advanced aircraft in the face of criticisms over a slow production process, high price tag and numerous setbacks over the years.
In August, Israel finalized its agreement to buy 17 more advanced F-35 stealth fighters from Lockheed Martin, which will bring the air force’s fleet of the aircraft to 50.
Israel is currently in possession of five F-35 stealth fighters, and the air force is scheduled to receive the remaining 45 in small batches over the next few years.
The initial order of 33 F-35 jets is expected to be completely delivered by 2021. The new batch of 17 airplanes is set to arrive by December 2024, the Defense Ministry said.
Israel receives over $3 billion a year from the US in military aid, and early this year, the two countries agreed on a new aid package that will see Israel receive $3.8 billion annually through 2028, the vast majority of which must be used on purchases from American defense companies.
Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.