Two more F-35 stealth fighter jets landed in southern Israel Sunday, the army said, expanding Israel’s fleet of the state-of-the-art aircraft to over a dozen.
The F-35 planes, known in Israel by their Hebrew name, the “Adir,” meaning mighty or great, landed in the Israeli Air Force’s Nevatim base, southeast of Beersheba, where they will join the Golden Eagle Squadron.
The planes took off from the United States last week, but were slightly delayed in arriving in Israel, apparently due to bad weather.
The Israeli Air Force has acknowledged receiving at least 12 F-35 fighter jets from the US-based Lockheed Martin defense contractor.
Israel began receiving the fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighter from the United States in December 2016. The aircraft were declared operational approximately a year later.
Israel has, for now, agreed to purchase 50 F-35 fighters in total from the United States, which are scheduled to be delivered in installments of twos and threes by 2024.
Earlier this year, the IAF announced that it had used the stealth fighter jet in combat, which it said made it the first air force in the world to do so.
“The Israeli Air Force has twice carried out strikes with the F-35, on two different fronts,” IAF commander Amikam Norkin told a conference of air force chiefs visiting Israel from around the world on May 22.
“I think that we are the first to attack with an F-35 in the Middle East — I’m not sure about other areas,” he said.
The Israeli military later went further, saying that this was the first operational use of the fighter jet in the world, not only in the Middle East.
The air force chief did not specify when those two attacks took place, but said the F-35 did not carry out strikes during Israel’s massive bombardment of Iranian targets in Syria on May 10.
The fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet has been lauded as a “game-changer” by the Israeli military, not only for its offensive and stealth capabilities, but for its ability to connect its systems with other aircraft and form an information-sharing network.
Detractors, however, balked at the high price tag for the aircraft: approximately $100 million apiece (the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, says the cost is expected to go down as more countries purchase the F-35).