The Israeli Air Force (AIF) and Lockheed Martin unveiled Israel’s new F-35 fighter jet at Lockheed’s aeronautics headquarters in Forth Worth, Texas on Wednesday. The IAF has purchased 33 of the state-of-the-art fighters, nicknamed Adir — Hebrew for “mighty” — and plans to purchase 17 more by 2021 to complete two squadrons.
The planes, which cost $85 million each, will be tested over the next few months before the first two F-35s are flown to the Nevatim air force base near Beersheba on December 12. U.S. Air Force pilots will take the planes on the cross-Atlantic flight, which will include mid-air refueling over both the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.
Eight F-35s are expected to be put into service by the fall of 2017. Some of the IAF’s top F-15 and F-16 pilots, all with the rank of major or higher, are currently training to fly the F-35s on a simulator. Sophisticated guidance systems will be added to the aircraft after they arrive. Israel is the only country that the Pentagon allows to modify the planes, due to the close military cooperation between the two countries as well as Israel’s experience modifying American F-15s and F-16s to integrate the jets with their own systems. Some custom communications and sensor hardware that Israel developed for the jets has been incorporated by the U.S. into its own aircraft.
Haaretz reported that the rollout ceremony, which included new Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, “was testimony to the strong fabric of the relationship between the IAF, the defense ministry and the Israeli defense industries and Lockheed Martin, which also manufactured the F-16 fighter and the S-130 transport plane, as well as with the F-35 administration program in the Pentagon and the U.S. Armed Forces.”
[Photo: IAF ]