F-35 Adir Jets.
(photo credit: COURTESY IAF)
Israel received three more F-35 Adir stealth fighter jets on Sunday just days after the world’s most advanced jet was rolled out in neighboring Turkey.
With the arrival of the three jets, which landed at Nevatim Airbase southeast of Beersheba, the country currently boasts 12 Adir aircrafts. The IAF is expected to receive a total of 50 planes to make two full squadrons by 2024.
In December, Israel become the first air force outside the United States to declare Initial Operational Capability of the jet and last month IAF chief Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin announced that Israel has struck targets in the Middle East with the F-35 Adir jet twice, making the Jewish state the first country to use the stealth fighter in a combat role in the region.
Norkin made the comments while showing a picture of one Israeli F-35 Adir flying over the Lebanese capital of Beirut during the day. He did not mention when the picture was taken.
Built by Lockheed Martin, the jets have an extremely low radar signature allowing the jet to operate undetected deep inside enemy territory as well as evade advanced missile defense systems like the advanced Russian-made S-300 and S-400 missile defense system.
Israel is one of 12 countries participating in the F-35 program, with nine partner nations who participated in the jet’s development such as Turkey which received its first jet on Thursday despite opposition by US lawmakers.
US lawmakers are increasingly worried about Ankara’s human rights records and growing ties to Russia, which is in talks to sell it’s advanced S-400 anti-aircraft weapon system.
The deterioration of ties between Ankara and Washington has led US lawmakers to voice concern that if Russia provides the S-400 to Turkey while it flies the F-35, the capabilities and vulnerabilities of the jet could potentially be conveyed to Russia, compromising it.
The already fragile relations between Israel and Turkey have been increasingly strained in recent months as Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, a vocal critic of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians, has intensified his rhetoric.
Israel has already quietly tested ways to defeat the advanced Russian air defense system, participating in several joint drills between the Greek and Israeli air forces over the island of Crete where one system is stationed. The drills have allowed Israeli warplanes to gather data on how the advanced system may be blinded or fooled.
Israel’s F-35 Adirs were designed to Israel’s own specifications and are be embedded with Israeli-made electronic warfare pods as well as Israeli weaponry, all installed once the planes have landed in Israel.
The Israeli F-35s have components built by several local defense companies including Israel Aerospace Industries who produced the outer wings, Elbit System-Cyclone that built the center fuselage composite components and Elbit Systems Ltd, which manufactured the helmets worn by the pilots.
Israel is also the only partner nation to have secured the right from the US to perform depot-level maintenance, including overhauling engines and airframe components, within its borders.
In the first deal, Israel purchased 19 F-35s at a cost of $125 million, and a second deal of 14 jets saw Jerusalem pay $112 million per plane. The cost of the plane is expected to drop to around $80 million by 2020. The jets are purchased as part of the military aid agreement between the United States and Israel.
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