Israeli F35 in the skies above Israel. (Photo: IAF on Twitter)
The Israeli Air Force has put the US-made F-35 stealth fighter to the test in combat for the first time. Israel recently completed the purchase of 50 F-35 planes, from the world’s priciest military program.
Israel is the first country in the world to which the United States has sold the single-seat jet. In December 2016, it took delivery of the first two planes after ordering an initial 50. At least nine have been received so far.
The planes are known In Israel by the Hebrew name “Adir”, meaning ighty). The jets are believed to be the conventional take-off and landing F-35A.
Israeli air force commander Major General Amikam Norkin met with the leaders of 20 foreign air forces in a meeting in Israel and said that, “We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East and have already attacked twice on two different fronts.” Norkin did not mention any specific targets.
Norkin showed an image of jets over Beirut, Lebanon, and said the planes had “already attacked twice on two different fronts”.
“You know that we just won the Eurovision with the song ‘Toy.’ Well, the F-35 is not a toy,” he told those assembled.
Analysts believe that Israel’s demonstration of military prowess by engaging an F-35 in an operational strike before even the Americans may have been planned to serve as a show of strength, and thereby deter regional rivals at a time when Iranian forces are embedding themselves deep in Syria.
"The F-35 squadron has become an operational squadron. We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East – we might be the first to attack with F-35 in the Middle East"
— Israeli Air Force (@IAFsite) May 22, 2018
Together with Russia, Iran is one of the most prominent backers of Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria. It has sent hundreds of officers and staff to the country, who it says serve as military advisers to the Syrian army. It has also sent thousands of combat soldiers to bolster Assad’s despotic regime.
As ISIS has been chased out of mainland Syrian and Iraqi cities, Iran has shifted to fighting rebels within Syria, and the spectre of war with Israel looms as it asserts itself as a regional power. Iran has in recent months sent a drone packed with explosives into Israeli airspace, and shot rockets at Israeli cities.
More recently, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Iran lied repeatedly about its nuclear program, leading president Trump to leave the pathetically ineffectual nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration.