Israel and Lockheed Martin sign F-35 maintenance deal

FILE - In this Dec. 29, 2016 file photo, an Israeli Air Force F-35 plane performs during a graduation ceremony for new pilots in the Hatzerim Air Force Base near Beersheba, Israel says it has awarded a $42 million contract to Lockheed Martin to provide maintenance and training services for its fleet of F-35 fighter jets. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel says it awarded a $42 million contract to Lockheed Martin to provide maintenance and training services for its fleet of F-35 fighter jets.

Israel's Defense Ministry said Tuesday that under the deal, the U.S. defense contractor will support a training simulator and logistics management system at an Israeli air force base.

Israel will pay over half the cost in five years, with the rest contingent on a five-year extension.

Zeev Landau, Israel's chief of air force and navy procurement, says the agreement has strategic importance "for the independence" of Israel's air force.

Joshua Shani, CEO of Lockheed Martin Israel, says support will begin immediately.

Israel was one of the first countries to acquire the F-35 next-generation warplane and last year said it was the first to use it operationally.