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Israel receives three new F-35s for its 116th ‘Lions of the South’ Squadron

Israeli F-35s at Nevatim Air Base
Photo: Israeli Air Force

Three more F-35 fighters landed at Nevatim Airbase in Southern Israel on Sunday, bringing the number of the fifth-generation aircraft delivered to Israeli Air Force to 27.

The Adir, as the F-35 is referred to in Israeli service, were delivered from Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth, Texas, facility, following a stopover at Lajes Air Base in the Azores.

The three new aircraft will be joining the 116th (“Lions of the South”) Squadron, the Israeli Air Force’s second F-35 squadron, which was declared operational in August 2020.

Lions of the South achieved the operational status half a year after the unit was established in January 2020. Israel declared initial operational capability for the F-35 in 2017 and was the first operator to use the aircraft in a combat mission during operations in Syria.

Photo:: Israeli Air Force

Israel is expected to be second-largest international F-35 operator with 50 units on order and options for additional 25 to 50 aircraft. As it currently stands, the largest F-35 operator outside the US will be Japan with 150 units on order.

The IAF recently also took delivery of a unique experimental F-35I Adir aircraft, which will allow the service to integrate certain indigenous technologies into the F-35. The experimental F-35I will be instrumental for the installation of additional capabilities, and independent installation of munitions, Israeli officials said in November 2020.