The Israeli Knesset has approved the Israeli air force’s planned acquisition of 20 F-35 strike fighters, clearing the way for the estimated $2.75 billion deal to proceed, according to US and Israeli press reports. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared “purchasing the most advanced fighter jets in the world is an important step in strengthening the state of Israel’s military power,” according to an UPI report Tuesday. First delivery of the advanced stealth fighters is anticipated in 2015. There are still steps to go in the process like the formal signing of a letter of agreement with the US government and a contract with F-35 maker Lockheed Martin. Israel may acquire future batches of additional F-35s as the US has already approved the sale of up to 75 F-35s to the Middle East ally. (For more, see also AFP report. Jerusalem Post report, and Reuters report.)
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.