The Israeli Air Force is inaugurating its second F-35 squadron.
On January 15, 2020, IsraelDefense reported that the Israeli Air Force is expected to hold a ceremony at Nevatim air base this week to inaugurate the second F-35 squadron. It will receive the number 116 and carry the nickname “The Southern Lions.” This squadron will be in addition to the first one, which is numbered 140 with the nickname “The Golden Eagle.”
Top officials, including Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, will attend the event.
The first two F-35s for Squadron 116 arrived in November 2019, IsraelDefense reported. These would make 20 in-country, after deliveries begin in December 2016. Under several deals between Israel and the U.S., Israel will receive 50 F-35 fighter jets through 2024. Once delivered to the country, the aircraft are upgraded with Israeli-made systems in order to better integrate them into the country’s military. The upgraded jets are referred to as F-35I “Adir.”
Six more aircraft should arrive in Israel this year.
Israel is still considering the addition of a third squadron of F-35s. The country was originally approved for 75 jets; thus, it could still amend its order to add another group of 25 aircraft. At present, the Air Force is known to be choosing a purchase of either more F-35s or a new batch of F-15s. A decision had been expected for last summer. However, for the time being, it has been put on hold as Israel has been unable to form a government after two elections.
A third election is scheduled to be held in March 2020. Assuming a government can be formed, it is presumed that a decision on the fighter jet buy will follow later in 2020.