A year after arriving in Israel, the "Adir" (F-35I) fighter was declared operational today (Wednesday) by the Israeli Air Force. The fifth-generation fighter jet, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is considered one of the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft.
"The declaration of the squadron's operational capability is occurring at a time in which the IAF is operating on a large scale in a number of fronts, in the constantly-changing Middle East," said Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, Commander of the IAF. "The operational challenge, which is becoming more and more complex each day, receives an excellent aerial response. The 'Adir' aircraft's operational status adds a significant layer to the IAF's capabilities at this time."
Following a series of tests and fitness examinations, the aircraft was found fit for operational activity. "The inspection examined missions and scenarios that include all of the operational elements required to fly the 'Adir,' from the ground to the air," shared Lt. Col. Yotam, Commander of the 140th ("Golden Eagle") Squadron, which operates the F-35. "I am confident in the division’s capability to reach operational preparedness and feel that the pressure is positive and healthy."
The first two fighters arrived in Israel on December 12, 2016. Today, the IAF has nine at its disposal, five of which were chosen for the inspection. The Israeli F-35 is the first outside of the United States to be declared operational, preceded only by the US Marine Corps and US Air Force.
"The initial operational capability inspection examined more than the squadron’s readiness to operate the 'Adir,' it tested the entire IAF. The inspection dealt with multiple elements in the IAF: the various directorates, the 'Golden Eagle' Squadron, the ATC Unit, Nevatim AFB, the Central Control Unit and many more," said Lt. Col. Yotam.
The IAF’s standpoint, to adapt itself to the fifth generation instead of adapting the "Adir" to the IAF, posed a new challenge every day. "The main theme that characterized the past year was learning. Every day in the past year ended with a debriefing in which we learned something new: about the aircraft, about its systems, operation, and maintenance," said Maj. D, Deputy Commander of the 140th Squadron.
The 140th Squadron’s aircrew members are among the first F-35 aircrew members in the world, a fact that strengthens their sense of mission. "Flying the 'Adir' is exciting every time, from wearing your flight suit and unique helmet to starting the engine. Getting excited from the overwhelming thrust, the ease in which you climb and begin performing your mission."
"The integration of the 'Adir' is one of the largest challenges that the IAF has dealt with, mainly because of the pioneering nature of the project. 80 percent of the things we do and learn here are things we taught ourselves," shared Lt. Col. Yotam.
Throughout 2018, the "Golden Eagle" Squadron is expected to integrate six more fighters, while the next aircraft are scheduled to land in Israel early in the summer.
"We have yet to complete our acquaintance with the aircraft. We still have tests, development of combat doctrines and extensive learning before us," concluded Lt. Col. Yotam. "We haven’t stopped learning thinking and developing upon being declared operational. The establishment of the division does not end with this inspection; it just begins. Will the 'Adir' participate in the next military campaign? I have no doubt. An aircraft like this brings capabilities to the IAF that it didn’t have before; it is an important strategic asset."
The article was originally published by Carmel Stern on the IAF website