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The United States plans to sell Israel as many as 75 F-35 fighter jets in a deal that eventually could reach $15.2 billion.

Israel would be the first nation not participating in the F-35 project to acquire the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, the next generation combat plane. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress last week of its intention to sell Israel 25 of the F-35s.

“Israel needs these aircraft to augment its present operational inventory and to enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground self-defense capability,” the agency said in a statement Monday announcing the notification. The initial 25 aircraft would have conventional take-off capability; Israel may still purchase another 50 with vertical take-off capability. The total value of the sale could be $15.2 billion. The F-35, developed by the United States and eight partner nations, has been beset by design problems and is not yet ready for operation. Israel had wanted to join the project at the design stage, but the United States vetoed such participation, in part because of tensions at the time over Israeli arms sales to China.

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