FighterSweep Fans, Israel has set the timeline for the first two of its Joint Strike Fighters to arrive. The pair of Lockheed Martin F-35I “Adir” fighters are currently scheduled to appear in the sky over Israel on 12 December. The next six of the aircraft will arrive in 2017.
The arrival ceremony at Nevatim Air Base near Be’er Shiva is going to be a pretty big deal. Initial plans include the presence of Israel’s national leadership and senior IDF leadership. Once the jets are parked and shut down, maintainers will apply the insignia for the first F-35I unit, known as the Golden Eagle Squadron. Then, according to the timeline, the first aircraft will be towed into a hangar to have Israel’s own command, control, communications, and computers (C4) system installed.
Bed-down is already underway at Nevatim. The squadron already has a commanding officer and subordinates, consisting of aircrew and enlisted personnel. According to Lockheed-Martin, a cockpit demonstrator has already been delivered, with the full-up simulator scheduled to be delivered sometime in early 2017. The support and hangar facilities, many of which are reportedly underground, are under construction.
Israel’s timeline notes the first IAF pilots selected for the Golden Eagles will arrive in the United States to begin their F-35 transition course this summer. Maintainers, known as the “Technical Flight,” are arriving ahead of them to attend their own specialized F-35 training.
Currently, Israel has committed to purchase more than thirty of the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant of the F-35, and is looking for at least one more additional buy. As part of the acquisitions agreement, the U.S. agreed to share technology and infrastructure plans with the IAF, so depot-level maintenance on the aircraft will be able to be carried out without the aircraft having to leave Israel.