In public debut, F-35 jets streak over Israel for Independence Day
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In public debut, F-35 jets streak over Israel for Independence Day

Public gets it first look at Air Force's new stealth fighters during annual flyover celebrating Jewish state's establishment

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli F-35 stealth fighter jets soared above cities throughout Israel on Tuesday for the country’s annual Independence Day flyover, marking the first time the public got a look at the Air Force’s state-of-the-art plane, considered the most advanced fighter in the world.

Taking part in the day’s main flyover, the three F-35 planes flew over the southern city of Beersheba to the Tel Nof air base before proceeding northeast to Jerusalem, where the jets grazed through the skies of the capital.

From Jerusalem, the F-35s continued north to Haifa by way of the Ramat David airbase, before flying south over Tel Aviv on their way back to their base in southern Israel.

Israelis celebrating Independence Day craned their necks skyward and took pictures and videos as the jets hurtled by overhead.

The decision to include the F-35 in this year’s flyover was made by the Israeli Air Forces’ top brass, including IAF commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, according to Maj. G, one of the flyover’s organizers, who, in keeping with Air Force security precautions for pilots, can only be identified by his first initial.

Israel is the first country outside the United States to receive the state-of-the-art F-35, which is manufactured by Lockheed Martin. In total, the country is planning to purchase 50 of the fifth-generation stealth aircraft, known in Israel as the “Adir,” or “mighty one,” and has thus far received five of them.

Along with the F-35, the Air Force showed off some of its other hardware including trainers, fighter jets, transport planes, helicopters, and refueling aircraft, as part of four flyovers throughout the country on Independence Day.

Israeli Sikorsky CH-53 Stallion helicopters perform during an air show over the beach in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on May 02, 2017 as Israel marks Independence Day, 69 years since the establishment of the Jewish state. AFP/JACK GUEZ)
Israeli Sikorsky CH-53 Stallion helicopters perform during an air show over the beach in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on May 2, 2017 as Israel marks Independence Day, 69 years since the establishment of the Jewish state. (AFP/Jack Guez)

The main flyover, which started in southern Israel, traveled approximately 850 kilometers (530 miles) on Tuesday, as the planes snaked their way throughout the country.

In addition to the flyovers, the Air Force also held a series of aerial acrobatic shows in the skies above cities and bases throughout the country beginning Tuesday morning, the last of which will take place in Jerusalem at 2:00 p.m.

Maj. G, an F-15 pilot, told The Times of Israel on Monday that it took “many hours” to prepare the flyover.

People watch the military airshow on Israel's 69th Independence Day in Jerusalem, May 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
People watch the military airshow on Israel’s 69th Independence Day in Jerusalem, May 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

With planes taking off at different locations, “it’s a complicated bureaucracy that you have to synchronize in the air,” he said.

One plane taking off late can throw off the whole schedule, he said.

“We choose the sites we want to pass over during the flyby. It goes to all the cities — well, most of the big cities in the country. Afterward, we pick in each city the place where there will be the most people so that they can watch,” he said.

For instance, in Tel Aviv, the planes spend most of their time just off the coast, giving beach-goers front-row seats for the action.

People watch the annual air force flyover on Israel's 69th Independence Day in Jerusalem on May 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
People watch the annual Air Force flyover on Israel’s 69th Independence Day in Jerusalem on May 2, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

 

In addition to helping plan the flyover, Maj. G also took part in it for the first time, flying an F-15I as part of the main event.

“[My family] knows how to pick out my plane. When I’m in the air, they’ll see me from the ground. Then afterward, we’ll meet up,” he said on Monday.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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