Israel says it is 1st country to use U.S.-made F-35 in combat

Li Jiayao

JERUSALEM, May 22 (Xinhua) -- Israel is the first country in the world to use the U.S.-made F-35 stealth fighter in combat, said Israel Air Force (IAF) Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin on Tuesday.

"We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East. It had become part of our operational capabilities. We are the first to attack using the F-35 in the Middle East and have already attacked twice on different fronts," he said during the IAF Senior Air Force Conference in Herzilya.

Norkin made the comments while showing a picture of one Israeli F-35 flying over the Lebanese capital of Beirut. He did not mention when the picture was taken.

Israel declared initial operational capability of the U.S.-made jet last December after receiving nine F-35s, with the rest 41 planes to be received to make two full squadrons by 2024.

With an extremely low radar signature, the F-35 is able to operate undetected deep inside "enemy territory such as Iran" as well as evade advanced missile defense systems like the Russian-made S-300 system which Tehran announced in March had become operational, Norkin said.

According to U.S. defence contractor Lockheed Martin, over 280 F-35 aircraft have been delivered and are operating from 15 bases around the globe with over 130,000 cumulative flight hours.



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