April 21 (UPI) — Israel is set to receive three additional F-35 Lightning II multirole aircraft on Sunday, bringing its 5th-generation fleet up to five total jets.
The planes will depart from the United States and join the two jets already in service, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Prior to the departure, the F-35s were refueled by U.S. craft alongside an F-16. The planes will be among the first 5th-generation aircraft to be operated by Israeli pilots, Jerusalem Online reported.
The scheduled delivery comes less than 5 months after Israel received its first two F-35s in December. U.S. defense and industry representatives say the procurement bolsters U.S. security interests in the region, and strengthens its relationship with its Middle Eastern ally.
Israel was the first country to signal interest in the Lockheed Martin-led program when it signed a foreign military sales agreement with the United States. The country intends to use the new aircraft to phase out its aging fleets of F-15s and F-16s.