More than 13 years after Israel first signed on to the F-35 program, the Israeli Air Force is about to receive its first two F-35I “Adir” Lightning II stealth fighters, which are slated to land in Israel Monday afternoon.
The pair of fighters represent Israel’s first fifth-generation fighter aircraft, and the first stealth aircraft incorporated into the Israeli Air Force. The F-35 is intended to replace the F-16, Israel’s mainline fighter jet, which was originally designed in the 1970s.
The two planes, designated by the IAF flight numbers 901 and 902, will make the final leg of their journey from Italy to Israel, flown by USAF pilots, this afternoon, arriving at the Nevatim Air Force Base at 2:00 p.m. The Prime Minister and other representatives will take part in the ceremony, along with top IDF brass.
A formal welcome ceremony is planned at the Nevatim base to celebrate the planes’ arrival – and the importance of the acquisition to the IAF.
“This isn’t about simply adding another plane or other air unit,” an IAF spokesperson said. “The F-35I, or by its Hebrew name, ‘Adir’, is something else that we’ve never encountered before.”
“If we have been up until now in the third or fourth generation of fighter jets, this plane isn’t just fifth generation – it represents a generational leap forward.”