There's a storm cloud on the horizon, and unless I miss my guess, it's about to start raining profits for Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) and its F-35 Lightning II fighter jet.

A little more than two years ago, we saw the lightning flash as rumors swirled concerning a multi-dozen-plane order from Israel. This week, the thunderclap arrived -- Israel named the F-35 its official "Next-Generation Fighter" and signed a letter to start the process of buying the fighter jets for its Air Force.

No huge surprise there, of course. Ever since Boeing (NYSE: BA) announced its intention to sell tens of billions of dollars' worth of F-15 fighters and Apache helicopters to Saudi Arabia (flying in formation with United Technologies' (NYSE: UTX) Black Hawks, and with interest in General Dynamics' (NYSE: GD) warships and rockets from Lockheed Martin and Raytheon (NYSE: RTN)), pundits have predicted that Israel would jump at the chance to buy even more advanced weapons systems to counter the arms build-up to its east. But just knowing the news was coming didn't prepare us for the size of the Israeli commitment.

How big is this deal for Lockheed -- and, lest we forget, for competing F-35 engine builders General Electric (NYSE: GE) and United Tech? It's hard to overstate. When last we heard, the Israelis were talking of needing perhaps 25, maybe 75 F-35s for their Air Force. But if you read between the lines of Reuters' story following up on yesterday's news, it's starting to look as if the deal could be even bigger.

Initially, Israel will spend $1.8 billion to acquire 19 F-35 fighters at about $96 million a pop. Associated flight simulators, spare parts, and maintenance services will increase the per-plane cost to nearly $145 million. Eventually, the Israelis say they might need $15.2 billion worth of hardware and ancillary services -- which my calculator tells me results in a total buy order as big as 105 planes. For context, that's nearly as many airplanes as Great Britain has ordered for its navy -- and Britain is the sole "level 1" partner on the project! It's also a number 40% above the best-case scenario that was floated back in 2008, when Israel first expressed interest in the plane.

Foolish takeaway
In the halls of the Pentagon, talk today is all about cutting, slashing, and then trimming the defense budget some more, and this talk has had the expected effect on Lockheed's stock price. But Israel's rising interest serves as a welcome reminder for investors: Just like its planes, Lockheed's stock can also go up.

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General Dynamics is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection, but Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares of any company named above.

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