On the same day that saw US president-elect Donald Trump take a swing at the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II for being too expensive, Israel took delivery of its very first two jets. Both arrived at Nevatim airbase following a flight that saw stopovers in the Azores and Italy.
The Israeli jets are among the first to be based anywhere outside the US. Crewed by US pilots, both F-35I Adir (Hebrew for ‘mighty one’) jets on Monday flew to Israel after leaving the F-35 Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility in Italy. Airheadsfly.com had the rare opportunity to visit this facility last October.
Last week, both jets arrived at the FACO after a transatlantic flight that saw a stop over in Lajes on the Azores. The visit to the FACO was a surprise move, especially since the Israelis have said that all future maintenance on the Adir will be done in-country. Nevertheless, the FACO in Italy offers maintenance and upgrade facilities for F-35 jets.
Israeli pilots will fly the new aircraft for the first time this week. In 2018, the Israeli Air Force will put them into service. The country now has 50 jets on order.
The arrival of the advanced jet was overshadowed by Trump’s announcement that the F-35’s program costs are ‘out of control’ just hours before. His tweet – that also vaguely hints at cutting those costs – saw Lockheed Martin stocks take a plunge straightaway. Most recent estimates say the total program costs are now around 376 billion USD.
Trump’s targetting of the F-35 comes only a few weeks after another blow to the program, which was Canada’s postponement of a purchase by selecting the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet for now.