span class=”t13″The United States government said Tuesday it had approved the sale to Israel of 25 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft and an option for 50 more in coming years, for a deal valued at up to $15.2 /br /The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said the deal is vital to U.S. national security interests to assist Israel as it develops and to maintain “a strong and ready self-defense capability.”br /br //spanspan class=”t13″Israel needs the aircraft built by the Lockheed Martin Corp to enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground defense, the agency /br /The DSCA notified Congress about the proposed sale before lawmakers head back to their districts for the November election. Lawmakers now have 30 days to block the sales, but such action is rare, since the agreements are usually carefully vetted /br /The Israeli embassy in Washington made a concerted effort to have the deal approved by the current Congress, and a critical development in the legislation was achieved this /br /The next stage would be Israeli and American defense officials signing the agreement, enabling the provision of the aircraft by /br /The Pentagon agency said Israel wants to buy an initial 25 F-35s in the Conventional Take-Off and Landing (CTOL) configuration, with an option to buy an additional 50 F-35 CTOL or Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) /br /All aircraft would be equipped with either the F-135 engine built by Pratt and Whitney, a unit of United Technologies, or the F-136 engine being developed by General Electric Co. and Britain’s /br /Lockheed Martin said it welcomes the decision. “As the first potential foreign military sale of the F-35, this would be an important first step in expanding interest in the Joint Strike Fighter beyond the U.S. government and eight international F-35 partner nations,” said Lockheed spokesman Tom /br /Earlier in September the Pentagon approved up to $330 million in three separate arms deals for /br /Top Israeli and U.S. officials met in Washington last month for the most senior bilateral high-tech talks between the two allies. Discussions focused in part on ensuring that sensitive technologies were not passed to third /br /An Israeli embassy spokesman called the latest deal further proof of the countries’ special relationship, as Israel is the first country outside NATO to receive the aircraft, each of which cost about $50 /br /The Israel Air Force is expected to send pilots to the U.S. to train on the planes once the sale is complete. Israel’s military industry will also be involved in the aircraft’s operation, providing various electronic support /br /Acquisition of the plane represents a significant boost to Israel’s security capabilities, as it can be used both for bombing missions and in aerial combat, possessing advanced stealth /br /Senior security officials and the Israel Defense Forces General Staff expressed broad support for the sale, but some senior IDF officers expressed dissatisfaction with its timing. They said the sale should have been postponed by a year and the funds used to buy tank defense systems and armored personnel carriers, two elements they said are currently lacking among ground /br /The F-35 can flying large distances without refueling and can cover the distance between Israel and Iran. It is designed to carry a variety of advanced weapons and radar /br /The F-35 is considered the “last manned aircraft,” as aviation experts believe aerial combat will be conducted largely by unmanned aircraft in the coming years. Its maiden flight was in December /br /Israel had expressed interest in acquiring the F-22, considered the only “fifth-generation” combat aircraft in the world, but was prevented from doing so by a U.S. Congress bill prohibiting its sale to any other countries in order to preserve the combat superiority of the U.S. Air /br /While the F-22 uses a twin engine, the F-35 runs on a high-powered single engine designed by Pratt amp; /br /Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin is expected to complete its sale of 102 F-16 aircraft to Israel by the end of the year. /span

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