Only 16 hours after landing in Nevatim AFB, the first two “Adir” (F-35I) stealth fighters took off for their first sortie in Israeli skies. The hour-long sortie was escorted by “Sufa” (F-16I) fighters. “This morning, our men woke up to a new day and a new era”

Zohar Boneh

Only 16 hours after landing in Israel, the “Adir” (F-35I) stealth fighters took off for their first sortie, escorted by “Sufa” (F-16I) fighters. This time, the jets were flown by Lt. Col. Yotam, the Commander of the “Golden Eagle” Squadron and Maj. D’, his Deputy and not by American pilots, as they were yesterday.

First “Adir” (F-35I) Flight in Israel

Photography: Maj. Ofer

The Ceremony Ended and the Preparations Began
Upon the completion of the ceremony that marked their arrival to Israel, the new fighters were taken to the HAS (Hardened Aircraft Shelter) in which technical personnel prepared them for flight. Assisted by American technicians from “Lockheed Martin” and the USAF, the Israeli technical crew approached the new aircraft for the first time. “We checked the aircraft and did everything we could in order to confirm their fitness throughout the night”, said Maj. Roei, the “Golden Eagle” Squadron’s technical officer. “This morning, our men woke up to a new day and a new era”.

First “Adir” (F-35I) Flight in Israel

Photography: Celia Garion

“It is a pleasure having the aircraft here after a long period of preparing the base for it. We tested the procedures we decided upon ahead of time and understood what we should preserve and what we should change. These tests are the essence of establishment teams”, shared Maj. Roei. “We will continue experimenting with different procedures and changing them as we go along in the near future, in order to adapt the jets to us and us to the jets”.

First “Adir” (F-35I) Flight in Israel

Photography: Celia Garion

On Schedule
The “Adir’s” first hour-long flight in Israeli skies, was in fact a mission given by Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, IAF Commander, to the squadron. “Receiving the F-35, the most advanced fighter jet in the world and flying it a day after it lands, is a big event for the squadron. It is an event that changes in the face of the Middle East”, said Lt. Col. Yotam, the Squadron Commander. “There are very few organizations in the world that can accomplish this feat, if any at all”.

First “Adir” (F-35I) Flight in Israel

Photography: Maj. Ofer

In addition to the squadron’s tight schedule from the moment the jet landed to the first takeoff, the IAF has declared yet another goal: operational capability in December 2017. In order to meet this goal, the squadron members have began working around the clock and operating in accordance with the busy training program. “We will first make sure that we can provide the appropriate environment – safety wise – for the jet’s activity, train ourselves and develop combat doctrines”, shared Lt. Col. Yotam. “Only after meticulously testing the aircraft and making sure that we feel ready, we will begin operational activity”. 

First “Adir” (F-35I) Flight in Israel

Photography: Maj. Ofer