Israel declares F-35 war jets 'operational'

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Israel's air force announced Wednesday that its new squadron of U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets is fully operational.

File photo of a F-35 fighter jet is provided by Israel Defense Forces (IDF). [Photo/Xinhua]

Israel began establishing the "Golden Eagle" squadron upon the arrival of the first F-35, or "Adir" as it is called in Israel, in December 2016.

"The reception process of the Adir was performed by specially trained dedicated crews, who received nine aircrafts over the past year," a military spokesperson said in a statement.

The Israeli air force is the only air force, beyond the United States Armed Forces, that operates the Adir aircraft.

The reception of the Adir "adds another layer in the force design and employment efforts of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) continuing the evolving adaptation of the IDF to various threat scenarios," the statement read.

According to the air force commander, Major General Amikam Norkin, the announcement of the operationalization of the aircraft comes at a sensitive time.

"The air force is operating on a large scale on a number of fronts in a dynamic Middle East," he wrote in a letter sent to the air force.

File photo of a F-35 fighter jet is provided by Israel Defense Forces (IDF). [Photo/Xinhua]

The military considers the F-35 a major mean of enhancing its strategic and operational capabilities. "The constantly evolving and complex challenges are met with a high-quality and professional aerial response. The operationalization of the Adir aircraft adds another level to the Israeli air force's capabilities at this time," Norkin wrote.

The squadron's current nine aircrafts are among 50 F-35s that Israel agreed to purchase from the United States. Israel received about three billion U.S. dollars in defense aid from the U.S. for this purchase.

The F-35 is the newest and most advanced U.S. fighter jet. Its features include advanced stealth capabilities that allow the pilot to avoid being discovered by regular radars. It can carry an array of bombs and fly at a supersonic speed of Mach 1.6 (about 1,230 miles per hour.)

However, the jet has been criticized in the U.S. Congress over its costs and alleged engineering flaws.

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