Two F-35 fighter jets landed in Israel Sunday, the army said, bringing the number of fifth-generation stealth aircraft that the military says it has in its arsenal up to 16.
The Israel Defense Forces’ first two F-35 jets arrived in December 2016. Approximately a year later, the stealth fighter — known in Israel as the Adir — was declared operational, and several months after that, the head of the air force revealed that the aircraft had conducted bombing raids, making Israel the first country to acknowledge using the planes operationally.
“The capabilities of the Adir Squadron add another tier to the operational and strategic capabilities of the air force, which ensures the air force’s superiority in all its missions, namely the protection and safety of the State of Israel’s skies,” the IDF said in a statement.
The two F-35 fighter jets traveled from the United States to the Israeli Air Force’s Nevatim base in southern Israel, which is home to two F-35 squadrons.
Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tehran that Israel’s F-35 fighter jets can reach “anywhere in the Middle East,” following threats against Israel in recent weeks by senior Iranian officials.
Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the F-35 squadron at the Nevatim Air Force base, and held a security discussion with IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi, GOC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin and the forum of air force commanders.Prime Minister Netanyahu:"I am on an impressive tour of the air force base. I see all of our weapons systems and planes. Here behind me is the 'Adir', the F-35. Recently, Iran has been threatening the destruction of Israel. It would do well to remember that these planes can reach anywhere in the Middle East, including Iran and certainly Syria."Video: Omer Miron, GPOSound: Nir Sharf, GPO
Posted by The Prime Minister of Israel on Tuesday, 9 July 2019
“Lately, Iran has been threatening Israel with destruction,” Netanyahu said. “It should remember that these planes can reach every place in the Middle East, including Iran, and of course also Syria.”
The F-35 stealth jet is not believed to have an effective range to reach Iran unassisted, but it could conduct operations there with in-air refueling, a capability possessed by Israel’s air force.
Israel has agreed to purchase at least 50 F-35 fighter jets from the US defense contractor Lockheed Martin. They will be delivered in batches of twos and threes until 2024.