The Israeli public will get its first look at the air force’s new F-35 jets on Tuesday, when the stealth fighters take part in the annual Independence Day flyover.
Along with the F-35, the air force will show off some of its other hardware including trainers, fighter jets, transport planes, helicopters, and refueling aircraft.
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.
Celebrations marking the the 69th Independence Day are scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. on Monday and continue through the following day.
There will be four flybys on Tuesday.
The main flyover will begin in Rahat, north of Beersheba, shortly after 10:30 a.m., traveling south to Yeruham and then north, past Arad, Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley to Katzrin, in the Golan Heights. From there, it will fly west to the coast, past Haifa and Tel Aviv to Ashdod. It will then go past Netivot to Beersheba, the last stop, before ending shortly before 1 p.m.
The F-35 will only take part in some of that flyover. The aircraft will fly past Beersheba at 11:26 a.m., the Tel Nof air base at 11:44, Jerusalem at 11:50, the Ramat David air base at 12:03 p.m.; Haifa at 12:23, and Tel Aviv at 12:33, before returning to base.
In total, the main flyby will travel approximately 850 kilometers (530 miles) on Tuesday, according to Maj. G.
Southern Israel will enjoy its own flyby, albeit a more modest one. The Lavi, a trainer aircraft, and the F-16 Barak will fly from the northern Negev down past Sde Boker and Shizafon to the port city of Eilat and then north to Ketura and Sapir, before returning to base.
The air force’s aerial acrobatic planes will begin to perform at 9:40 a.m. above the Ramat David air base in northern Israel. They will then travel to Haifa at 9:55 a.m., Tel Nof at 11:50, Tel Aviv at 12:05 p.m., the Air Force Museum in Beersheba at 1:35, and finally Jerusalem at 2.
Finally, the Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion heavy transport helicopter, known in the IAF as the Yasur, will fly past the center of the country, from Jerusalem to Haifa, beginning just before 11 a.m. and ending an hour and a half later.
(A detailed timetable can be found below)
Maj. G, an F-15 pilot, told The Times of Israel on Monday that it took “many hours” to prepare the flyover.
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.
In addition to helping plan the flyover, Maj. G will also be taking part in it, flying an F-15I as part of the main event.
“This is my first time flying in it. I’m very excited. It’s a very meaningful event for me,” the pilot said.
“[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.”