The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has taken delivery of new F-35A fighters, rounding the number of the stealth aircraft in its fleet at 30.
The additional Adirs, as the aircraft are referred to in Israel, touched down at Nevatim airbase on September 26 to join the air force’s “Lions of the South” Squadron.
The 116th (“Lions of the South”) Squadron started operating the F-35A in August 2020, after approximately half a year after after it was stood as the Israeli Air Force’s second Adir squadron.
Israel’s now 30-strong fleet also includes a special test aircraft, which will allow the country to test the integration of certain indigenous technologies into the F-35 before they are rolled out for the rest of fleet. Israel is the only country in the F-35 program that has been allowed to make changes to the aircraft that include indigenous electronic warfare systems, sensors and countermeasures.
Israel declared operational capability for the fifth-generation fighter in 2017, and is said to have used the aircraft in a number of combat operations. The country 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.
As of September 2021, the F-35 program, with Lockheed Martin at the helm, delivered more than 690 aircraft to 14 services worldwide. Eight countries have achieved initial operational capability with the type, and have amassed 430,000 flight hours to date, according to a Lockheed Martin fact file.