Israel is actively working to double the range of its F-35 defense fighters, officials said Thursday, in an announcement made just before the Senate Congress vote on the Iran deal.
Israel's F-35s are tailor-made by Lockheed Martin, and named Adir (lit. "awesome."). The first two Adirs are due to be delivered to the Israeli Air Force (IAF) in December 2016.
The development was specifically made with "an eye on Iran" and other Middle East developments.
“The Stealth and other advanced capabilities provided by this fifth-generation fighter are self-evident,” an Israeli air force officer told Defense News. “Your options for attacking the enemy (with the stealth fighters) are much more numerous and practical."
"The things that we could do before will entail much less risk, and the things we might not have been able to do before will be rendered doable," he added.
The officer, who is deeply involved in the Adir program, noted that Iran is aware of the threat the F-35 poses.
The daily also verified that the IAF has received an exemption from a requirement mandating that third-party technicians maintain and update the aircraft; the IAF will handle all of the technical work on the planes themselves, in Lockheed-Martin logistics centers. The reason: in the event of an imminent war, Israel will have the tools it needs to defend itself.
Israel has signed contracts to buy 33 Adirs, according to Globes – 19 under a 2010 contract and 14 under a February 2015 deal. It has the option to buy as many as 75 more.
The first group of IAF Adir pilots will train at the Luke Air Force Base in Arizona in mid-2016.