Israel’s experience with the most advanced stealth jet in the world will be tapped even by the country that invented it.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
The Israeli air force has been invited to join those of the U.S. and Great Britain next year in Europe for the first-ever exercise in which the F-35I stealth fighter will play a major role, Maariv reported on Monday.
The troika of world powers in air combat will share methods, operational patterns and knowledge associated with the aircraft, the report says. Israel has been invited as one of the only countries in the world to actually have experience with the fifth-generation plane, as it was the first outside the U.S. to make it part of its air force.
It was also the first country to publicize that it had used the plane in combat.
IAF Commander Maj. General Amikam Norkin told 20 air-force commanders in May 2018: “We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East. It had become part of our operational capabilities. We are the first to attack using the F-35 in the Middle East and have already attacked twice on different fronts.”
The speculation at the time was that he meant Syria, which Israel has struck hundreds of times over recent years in order to deter an Iranian military build-up there.
He also reportedly showed his counterparts a photograph of the stealth fighter jet flying over Beirut, Lebanon, where Israel’s avowed enemy Hezbollah has its headquarters.
The first time the U.S. used its newest plane in combat was last September, when a naval version of the jet attacked a Taliban target in Afghanistan. Three weeks ago, the American air force reported that it had used an F-35A to hit an Islamic State tunnel network in northern Iraq.
Prior to the European exercise, Israel will hold a more expanded international air exercise in November in which the stealth jet will be used, although it will not be the focus.
This month, the Jewish state will be hosting several countries for the annual “Blue Flag” drill, and the Italian air force will be bringing its F-35s as well.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 is considered the most advanced stealth jet in the world because of its use of radar-absorbent materials and other design elements that make it almost invisible to enemy radar.
Many countries build components of the plane, including Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which manufactures its wings. By now, Israel has taken possession of 14 of a projected total of 50 F-35s that are scheduled to be delivered by the year 2024.
Israel has a history of being the first to test U.S. fighter planes in combat. The F-15’s first kill was by an Israeli pilot in an F-15A who shot down two Syrian MIGs in 1979. Similarly, F-16s first saw combat in the Israeli Air Force when they were used to bomb Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981.