A further three Lockheed Martin F-35I Adirs have been delivered to the Israeli Air Force (IAF), bringing the service’s total fleet size to 27 aircraft.
The fifth-generation multi-role stealth fighters – serials 939 (c/n AS-25), 941 (c/n AS-26) and 943 (c/n AS-27) – were initially flown from Lockheed Martin’s F-35 production facility in Fort Worth, Texas, to Lajes Air Base (AB) in the Azores on April 17. Their onward delivery flight to Israel was then delayed for some reason, with unconfirmed reports suggesting that one of the three aircraft had suffered an engine problem.
The three F-35Is finally departed Lajes AB for the final leg of their journey to Israel on April 25, arriving at Nevatim AB – near the Israeli city of Be'er Sheva – later the same day. These three aircraft will be operated by 116 Squadron ‘The Southern Lions Squadron’ from Nevatim.
AirForces Intelligence data states that Israel has now received 27 F-35Is, which are operated by 116 Squadron and 140 Squadron ‘The Golden Eagle Squadron’ from Nevatim. The IAF’s Flight Test Center (formerly known as 601 Squadron) at Tel Nof AB also operates examples of the type for testing and evaluation purposes.
Israel currently has a total of 50 Adirs on order, with the acquisition being approved by the Israeli government in October 2010. The first two aircraft were delivered to the IAF at Nevatim on December 12, 2016. The IAF declared initial operational capability (IOC) for the type in December 2017.