The Israeli Air Force (IAF) declared its squadron of F-35 stealth fighter jets operational yesterday, less than a year after receiving the first aircraft. The F-35’s are known in Israel as the “Adir”.
Major General Amikam Norkin, Commander of the IAF said: “The declaration of the squadron’s operational capability is occurring at a time in which the IAF is operating on a large scale in a number of fronts, in the constantly changing Middle East the operational challenge, which is becoming more and more complex each day, receives an excellent aerial response. The “Adir” aircraft’s operational status adds a significant layer to the IAF’s capabilities at this time”.
In a farewell interview with Haaretz in August, Major-General Amir Eshel, the former Commander of the IAF, discussed the potential of the F-35, saying “Not everything is perfect […] There are some things you only learn on your feet. This happens with every plane that we add. But when you take off in this jet from Nevatim [IAF base], you can’t believe it. When you ascend to around 5,000 feet, the entire Middle East is yours at the cockpit. It is unbelievable what you can see. The American pilots that come to us didn’t experience that because they fly there, in Arizona, in Florida. Here they suddenly see the Middle East as a fighting zone. The threats, the various players, are in short range as well as in long range. Only then do you grasp the tremendous potential this machine has. We already see it with our own eyes”.
The F-35 stealth fighters are operated by the air force’s Golden Eagle Squadron, based in the Nevatim Air Base in Central Israel.
Israel was the first country outside of the US to receive the F-35, and it championed the aircraft after it was criticised for the slow production process, high price and numerous setbacks during its development.
Israel agreed to purchase 50 F-35 fighters in total from the United States.