The Israeli Air Force welcomed Israel’s first stealth aircraft in history Wednesday evening, with the acquisition of an F-35 Lighting II fighter jet.
The aircraft, produced by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas, is the first fifth-generation fighter acquired by Israel. A ceremony on Wednesday held at the Lockheed Martin factory celebrated the completion of the very first Israeli F-35.
Specially designed for Israel’s needs, the planes sold to Israel are of the F-35I “Adir” variant, which incorporates Israeli electronic warfare system and will be compatible with various Israeli munitions and components.
The F-35, which resulted from the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program of the 1980s and 1990s,
While the F-35, when operational, will be the most advanced aircraft in Israel’s arsenal, the plane has been subjected to heavy criticism for massive cost overruns and ongoing questions over its dogfighting capabilities.
With a per-unit cost of roughly $100 million and a total program cost of well over $1.5 trillion, the F-35 has become one of the most expensive weapons development programs in history.
The IAF hopes to purchase a total of 75 F-35I fighters, though future procurements will be subjected to approval by the US government. Israel has already ordered 33 units, which will be delivered through 2019.
Israeli pilots will begin their F-35 training at the Eglin US Air Force Base in the Florida panhandle later this year.