The Defense Ministry last August acquired 17 F-35 Adir planes from the US government, completing the purchase of two full squadrons (50 aircraft) for the Israeli Air Force.

The F-35's Fifth-generation capabilities have been described by fighter pilots as "unbelievable, much better than anything any pilot could have wished for himself. I felt like a sniper wearing a Ghillie suit, effectively concealed and camouflaged and seeing three enemy snipers fully exposed on the ground. I can see them but they cannot see me. That's how it is with the F-35. Its pilot is invisible. That is the stealth characteristic and it is improving with the aircraft coming off the production line. This aircraft makes the decisions as to when and where to launch (munitions). It is an evolutionary and revolutionary aircraft. It is revolutionary owing to the fact that it collects intelligence and it can be improved and upgraded all the time, on the move."

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at ceremony for new F-35 Adir
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at ceremony for new F-35 Adirצילום: Flash 90

Organized Military Army YouTube channel analyzed the consequences this acquisition has for the balance of power in the Middle East: "Something changed in the region last December, when Israel declared its first squadron of F-35s operational. Numerically, the change seemed minor. The Israeli Air Force's (IAF) 140 ('Golden Eagle') Squadron has just nine F-35I Adir aircraft, scheduled to grow to fifty over the next three years. That's a small number compared to the roughly 300 F-15s, F-15Es and F-16s currently operated by the IAF.

"But the significance of Israel's F-35s is more than numbers. First, there is the simple qualitative advantage. Nationalists and propagandists can argue the merits of the F-35 versus the latest Russian MiG and Sukhoi fighters. What matters here is that neither Iran nor Syria are likely to get the most advanced Russian fighters or antiaircraft missiles (it took Iran ten years before it received Russian S-300 long-range anti-aircraft missiles in 2017). The F-35 is superior to Iran's collection of F-14, MiG-29s, and F-4 Phantoms, Syria's MiG-29s and Egypt's F-16s. There is a remote possibility that Israeli F-35s could confront Russian Su-35s (which Russia claims scared off U.S. F-22s) over Syria. But otherwise, Israel has and will continue to have the most advanced combat aircraft in the region," OMA wrote.

Intelligence reports indicate that Israeli F-35 stealth fighters have already carried out combat missions in Syria.