Three new Israeli Air Force “Adir” F-35I fighter jets landed at Nevatim air base in southern Israel on March 24, bringing the total number of Joint Strike Fighters delivered to Israel to 33.
The newest additions will be joining the 140th and 116th Squadrons, the first and second IAF Squadrons to operate the fifth-generation fighter.
The previous two batches of F-35Is arrived in Israel in April and September 2021, after the Israeli Air Force declared initial operational capability with the airframe in 2017.
Israel became the first country to select the F-35 through the US government’s Foreign Military Sales process when a letter of agreement was signed in October 2010. In 2016, the Israeli Air Force received the first F-35A in a ceremony at the Fort Worth, Texas, F-35 factory.
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.
A fact unique to Israel is that it has been allowed to use an F-35A as 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.