The Israeli Air Force is being delivered the first two 5th Generation stealth jets on Monday. They will help Israel “retain its edge” in the Middle East.
The IAF is expected to take delivery of its first 2 F-35A Lightning II jets at Nevatim airbase, in southern Israel, on Dec. 12.
The aircraft, lacking the Israeli low-visibility roundels (that will be applied once delivered to the “customer”) are flown by U.S. pilots and supported by a U.S. Air Force KC-135 tanker.
On their way to Israel, the 5th generation jets have performed a stopover in Lajes, Azores, where they arrived using radio callsign “Retro 11” and “Retro 12” on Dec. 6, and then in Cameri, Italy, where they have landed on Dec. 8.
The photographs in this post were taken by photographer Daniele Faccioli at the Italian airfield, home of the European Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility, that will assemble all the F-35A and F-35B jets for the Italian Air Force and Navy, and build F-35A for the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
The two Israeli F-35s, are the first and only of 50 Lightning II jets, designated “Adir” (“Mighty One”) by the Israeli, to be flown from the U.S.: the rest will be shipped by sea according to the IDF (Israeli Defense Force.)
“As the Middle East grows more and more unstable, and as groups that threaten to destroy us race to stockpile weapons, we need to stay a step ahead of the game. The F-35 gives us the edge we need to take on groups and armies with even the most advanced technology,” says the IDF in a blog on the imminent delivery.
The Israeli F-35s will have some domestic modifications and components provided by Israeli companies, including Israel Aerospace Industries that will produce the F-35’s outer wings, Elbit Systems-Cyclone, that will provide center fuselage composite components as well as Elbit Systems Ltd. that will provide Gen. III helmet-mounted display systems to be worn by all Lightning II pilots.
“Once the F-35 lands in Israel, it will be all our own. The IAF is adding its own systems to the jet, bringing a touch of the Start Up Nation to this already state-of-the-art plate. All maintenance and testing of the plane will be done in Israel, and the planes are projected to be operational in about one year.”
The IAF F-35As will be different from the “standard” F-35s, as they will employ national EW (Electronic Warfare) pods, weaponry, C4 systems etc. For this reason, Israeli F-35s are sometimes dubbed F-35I (for Israel.)
As we have already reported, IAF may also purchase some F-35Bs, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) version of the Joint Strike Fighter, that would allow the Israeli to have a squadron or two of multirole aircraft able to take off and land from austere/dispersed landing strips should Iran be able to wipe out IAF airbases with precision weapons.
Image credit: Daniele Faccioli