WATCH: IAF F-35i jets declared ‘combat-ready’ for December’s delivery to Israel

view videoThe F-35I, or “Adir” in Hebrew, which is expected to arrive in Israel in December, is the 5th generation stealth fighter jet that will position the Israeli Air Force at the cutting edge of stealth technology.

By Lilach Shoval, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff


The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday declared an initial squadron of Lockheed Martin Corp F-35A fighter jets ready for combat, marking a major milestone for a program that has faced cost overruns and delays.

The Israeli Air Force has thus far purchased 33 F-35s — the first of which is expected to arrive in Israel in December — and intends to purchase more in the future. The F-35A, or the “Adir” as it has been named in Hebrew, is a fifth generation stealth fighter jet that will position Israel’s air force at the cutting edge of technology.

About one week ago, the first F-35 that Israel will receive underwent a test flight in the southern United States. The plane will undergo a battery of further tests prior to being delivered to Israel.

Israel will be the first country outside the U.S. to receive the jet.

Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has hailed the jet as “the most advanced in the world,” saying it was “the choice of all our military leadership at its highest level for safeguarding Israel’s aerial superiority.”

Declaring the plane combat ready is another achievement for the $379 billion program, the Pentagon’s largest weapons project. The Air Force’s decision follows one by the U.S. Marine Corps in July 2015 declaring a first squadron of F-35s ready for combat.

“The U.S. Air Force decision to make the 15 F-35As … combat ready sends a simple and powerful message to America’s friends and foes alike — the F-35 can do its mission,” the program’s chief, Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, said in a statement.

Officials say the F-35 will have the ability to detect enemy aircraft and other threats far beyond current ranges, allowing the jets to strike targets and disappear long before they are detected.

The U.S. Air Force plans to buy a total of 1,763 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing jets in coming years and will operate the largest F-35 fleet in the world.

Lockheed is building three models of the F-35 Lightning II for the U.S. military and 10 countries that have already ordered the jets: Israel, Britain, Australia, Norway, Italy, Turkey, Denmark, the Netherlands, South Korea and Japan.

Industry and U.S. defense officials say they are working hard to continue driving down the cost of the new warplanes to $85 million per plane by 2019, as well as the cost of operating them.

Senator John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he welcomed the announcement but made clear he intended to keep a close eye on the enormously expensive program.

“The Senate Armed Services Committee will continue to exercise rigorous oversight of the Joint Strike Fighter program’s long-delayed System Development and Demonstration phase as well as the start of the operational test and evaluation phase,” McCain said in a statement.


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