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IAF Chief: Israel First Nation to Use F-35 in Combat

Speaking to a group of foreign air force commanders, the commander of the Israeli Air Force said that Israel was the first nation to use the F-35 fighter planes in actual combat earlier this month.

Speaking to his peers at the opening of the International Air Force Commander Convention in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin stated, “The ‘Adir’ (F-35I) aircraft are already operational and flying combat missions. In fact, we have performed the first operational F-35 strike in the world. We attacked twice in the Middle East using the F-35 – we are the first in the world to do so. The Israeli Air Force is a pioneer and a world leader in operating air power.”

Though Norkin wasn’t explicit about when the IAF used its newest fighters in combat, he referred to a series of Israeli airstrikes against Iranian assets in Syria earlier this month.

“Over the past weeks, we understood that Iran was transporting long-range missiles and rockets to Syria, among which are ‘Uragan’ missile launchers which we attacked, just north of Damascus,” recalled Maj. Gen. Norkin. “The Iranians fired 32 rockets towards Israel. We intercepted four of them, while the rest fell outside of Israel’s territory. Afterwards, we attacked dozens of Iranian targets in Syria. Sadly, the Syrian aerial defense systems fired over 100 SAM (Surface-to-air missiles) at our aircraft using SA-5, SA-17 and SA-22 missile batteries. In response, we destroyed their SAM batteries. A short time later, we destroyed a 20-meter deep Hamas tunnel.”

Initially the IDF had reported that the Iranians had fired twenty rockets towards Israel.

Israel received its first delivery of  the stealth F-35 fighters in December 2016 from United States manufacturer Lockheed Martin. A year later, Israel declared its F-35 squadron “operational.” Israel is also the only country that is allowed by the Pentagon to modify the F-35.

Norkin welcomed the countries participating in the convention saying, “This gathering is an exceptional event marking aerial, global and regional cooperation in order to strengthen regional stability. Your presence here has a strategic meaning for the people of the IAF and for myself, and for that I thank all of you.” Among the countries participating are the United States, UK, Germany, Canada, Greece, Poland, Italy, Cyprus, Austria, Bulgaria, Brazil, France, Czech Republic, Romania, Croatia, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium, Vietnam and India.

The convention will include discussions of strategic concerns of both the IAF and IDF, a lecture on “fifth-generation” aircraft presented Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson, a talk by Multinational Force and Observers who operate on the Israeli-Egyptian border, and a lecture by by the commander of the USAFE (United States Air Force Europe).  The attendees are also slated to meet IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot.

[Photo: Israeli Air Force ]