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Two US-made F-35 stealth fighter jets conducted their maiden flight to Israel where they were acquired by the Prime Minister himself after they landed on Monday, 12 Dec at the Nevatim Air Force base near Beersheeba. Israel is the first country to receive the F-35 outside the US.

At 20.16 on Monday, Israel’s newest and most advanced weapon – two F-35 stealth fighter jets – known by its Hebrew name Adir, or mighty) – touched down at Nevatim Air Base near Beersheba, after its departure late afternoon from Italy was delayed six hours due to fog. According to the IDF, security officials in both countries deemed it safer to wait until weather conditions improved before sending the fighter jets to Israel, on the last leg of their voyage to Israel.

Netanyahu thanked US President Barack Obama, Congress, and the American people because, he said, Israel “was just made stronger today. History has taught us that only strength brings deterrence, only strength brings peace and respect,” Netanyahu told the crowd.

Secretary of Defense Carter, visiting Israel on a two-week global tour, said that “there’s no better symbol of that relationship than the F-35,” adding that the “many threats that face Israel everyday from many directions” are part of the reason why the US and Israel have such close ties.

In the meantime, as Israel awaited the arrival of the planes, US President-elect Donald Trump said that he would completely reevaluate the costly aircraft program once he takes office on January 20.

Trump tweeted that the cost of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program is too high, and that he would shave billions from the project once he takes office.

“The F-35 program and cost is out of control,” Trump said on Twitter. “Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20.”

Responding to criticism from Trump, a company executive in Israel said Lockheed Martin had spent large sums of money to reduce the price of the F-35 stealth fighter program.

“Since the beginning, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce the price of the airplane by about 70 percent since its original costing, and we project it to be about 85 million dollars in the 2019 or 2020 time frame,” said Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program leader.

If Trump decides to cut the number of aircraft the US Air Force purchases, it would mean an increase in the cost per aircraft for Israel. It would also put into question Israel’s decision to align its air force’s future with the F-35.

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December 13, 2016

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