Israel says it will expand its fleet of next-generation F-35 fighter jets in a move that officials believe will maintain the country's qualitative military edge over its Mideast neighbors.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced Sunday that his Security Cabinet approved the purchase of 17 additional F-35s. It said this will bring the total of the stealth planes up to 50.

The F-35 is the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program, with an estimated cost of nearly $400 billion.

Israel is among a small number of allies slated to receive the plane, with the first expected to arrive in about three weeks.

Military officials believe the plane will allow the air force to maintain air superiority against regional foes, given its ability to avoid detection by the most sophisticated radar systems.