2 storks hit F-35, sending stealth jet to garage
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2 storks hit F-35, sending stealth jet to garage

Army says super advanced fighter wasn't damaged, should return to full service in the next few days

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

One of Israel's first two F-35 stealth fighter jets takes off for its maiden flight as part of the Israeli Air Force on December 13, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
One of Israel's first two F-35 stealth fighter jets takes off for its maiden flight as part of the Israeli Air Force on December 13, 2016. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Two storks hit an F-35 fighter jet during a training flight on Tuesday, requiring the plane to undergo maintenance work, the army said.

The birds hit the F-35, called the “Adir” in Hebrew, just before it was due to return to the Nevatim air base in the central Negev desert.

The army said the plane landed normally and that it did not sustain damage.

Yellow-billed stork (Bernard DUPONT / Wikipedia)

However, it was sent “for maintenance work as is common after impacts like this,” the IDF said in an email.

The army said the F-35 fighter jet, one of the seven currently in Israel’s possession, is expected to return to service in the next few days.

Israel has agreed to purchase 50 F-35 fighter jets from the United States in order to upgrade the air force’s capabilities.

The first two stealth fighters were delivered in December 2016, and the remaining planes are making their way over from the US in groups of two or three. Last month, for instance, two more F-35s were delivered.

According to military officials, the F-35 is expected to be cleared for full operational use by the end of this year.

Israel was the first country besides the United States to receive the F-35, and it has championed the advanced aircraft in the face of criticisms over a slow production process, high price tag and numerous setbacks over the years.

In August, Israel finalized its agreement to buy 17 more advanced F-35 stealth fighters from Lockheed Martin, which will bring the air force’s fleet of the aircraft to 50.

The initial order of 33 F-35 jets is expected to be completely delivered by 2021. The new batch of 17 airplanes is set to arrive by December 2024, the Defense Ministry said.

Israel receives over $3 billion a year from the US in military aid, and early this year, the two countries agreed on a new aid package that will see Israel receive $3.8 billion annually through 2028, the vast majority of which must be used on purchases from American defense companies.

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