The Lockheed Martin F35 fighter jet plane, also known as the Adir, in a test flight.
(photo credit: LOCKHEED MARTIN AERONAUTICS/ LIZ LUTZ)
The arrival of two F-35 “Adir” stealth fighter jets expected to land in Israel next week have been delayed by the United States Air Force in order to complete technical tests in one of the planes.
While there were no problems discovered in the Israeli jets, “according to the decision of the US Air Force, the arrival of the two F-35 ‘Adir’ jets will be delayed for a short period of time in order to complete the technical inspection of aircraft,” the IDF said on Tuesday.
Israel, which has already received five F-35 “Adir” jets now being tested by the IAF, was supposed to receive the two jets in the coming days and another two jets by November. The Jewish state is expected to announce initial operation capability of the first squadron by December 7.
The delay will not affect the planned IOC declaration in December, the IDF said.
While touted as the world’s most advanced jet, the F-35 is a controversial plane with a long series of failures and delays.
In June, the US Air Force grounded all F-35 Joint Strike Fighters at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona after pilots complained of hypoxia-related issues in five incidents. While the aircraft’s backup oxygen system kicked in and allowed the pilots to land safely, 48 out of 55 F-35s were affected by the temporary stand-down.
In another incident, a pilot weighing less than 62 kilos (136 pounds) was found to be at risk of being killed by its ejection system. Another saw a flaw in the plane’s cooling system that led to the US Air Force grounding the jet two months after it declared it combat-ready. Eight of the planes grounded by the USAF belonged to Israel.
The arrival of the first two F-35s in Israel in early December was also delayed, by six hours due to inclement weather conditions in Italy, where the planes had made a stop on their way from the United States. According to the IDF, security forces in both countries deemed it safer to wait until weather improved.
On Sunday, Israel completed the acquisition process of an additional 17 F-35 stealth jets whose delivery is to be made by December 2024, bring the total in the Israel Air Force to 50.
The planes are being purchased as part of the military aid agreement with the United States. In the first deal, Israel purchased 19 F-35s at a cost of $125 million each, and a second agreement for 14 jets saw Jerusalem pay $112m. per plane. The cost of the plane is expected to drop to around $80m. in the coming years.
Built in the United States by Lockheed Martin, the Israeli F-35s have components built by Israeli companies, including Israel Aerospace Industries, which produced the outer wings, Elbit System-Cyclone, which built the center fuselage composite components and Elbit Systems Ltd., which manufactured the helmets worn by the pilots.
The jets were designed to Israel’s specifications and will be embedded with Israeli-made electronic warfare pods as well as Israeli weaponry, all set to be installed once the planes are in Israel.
Several partner countries – Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, UK, Israel, Japan and South Korea – are involved in the US’s F-35 program.