Israel' military on Wednesday declared its newly acquired F-35 stealth fighters operational, making it the first country outside of the United States to put the ultra hi-tech jets into service.
Air Force chief Maj.
This statement comes after almost a year during which the new aircraft has been tested at the IAF base in the Negev. Gen. Amikam Norkin said the F-35 jets, known in Israel as the "Adir", or mighty one, will give Israel new capabilities that are necessary in confronting the "constantly evolving and complex challenges" in the Middle East.
Israel is reportedly also considering procuring the F-35B Lightning II short takeoff/vertical landing jet, which can also take off and land conventionally from longer runways on major bases.
Following the original agreement to purchase 50 warplanes, Israel's Defense Ministry in August finalized the acquisition of 17 additional F-35 stealth fighter jets from the U.S. The delivery of those jets is expected by December 2024.
The first 19 F-35s come at a cost of $125 million each, though the per-plane price tag is supposed to drop to $80 million before the entire transaction is completed.
This makes Israel the second country in the world, after the U.S., to have operational F-35s.
Regardless, the stealthy F-35 is an important addition to the IAF's arsenal.
The IAF has received nine F-35s so far, with the most recent pair of aircraft delivered in November. The remaining 41 planes will be delivered in installments of twos and threes over the coming years.
An agreement between Israel and the U.S. written into the USA legal code, specifically as part of the Arms Export Control Act, states that the U.S. may not sell "defense articles or services" to Middle East nations that "adversely affect Israel's qualitative military edge".