By DoD News
By Cheryl Pellerin
At Israel’s Nevatim Air Base Monday evening, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter helped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and hundreds of observers celebrate the arrival of two F-35A Lightning II jet fighters the United States sent to one of its most important Middle East allies.
The fighters are the first of 50 aircraft that will help build the future of the Israeli air force, Carter said, as part of a memorandum of understanding signed this year in which the United States pledged an unprecedented $38 billion in security assistance over the next 10 years.
“This evening we’re celebrating the remarkable progress of the U.S.-Israel defense relationship, and also of an [Israeli] air force that began by flying leftover World War II planes and is now flying the most advanced aircraft in history,” the secretary said.
First in the Region
As of today, Carter added, “Israel is our first and only friend in the region that’s flying F-35s. And it’s my honor to be here marking the delivery of these planes … to America’s closest friend and ally in the region.”
Netanyahu thanked Carter for celebrating the “important milestone” with Israeli leaders.
“It’s a sign of your personal friendship, your personal commitment to the U.S.-Israel alliance and … I wish to thank as well, on behalf of all the people of Israel, President [Barack] Obama, the American Congress and the American people,” Netanyahu said.
“Israel is your best and your most reliable ally in the Middle East — in my opinion beyond the Middle East — we will always remain so,” he added.
The Israelis call the F-35s “Adir,” which in Hebrew means “the mighty one.” Carter called this an “apt name for aircraft that represent the full force of military might.”
Dominating the Skies
From its stealth technology to its fighter capabilities, Carter said, the F-35 is designed to enable pilots to evade detection and fly at supersonic speeds while conducting air defense, ground-attack missions and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
The stealth fighter also features advanced sensors and data collection-capabilities that allow it to share data with other aircraft, the secretary added, noting that the information-sharing features make it an ideal aircraft for joint and coalition operations.
“Together,” Carter said to applause from the audience, “we will dominate the skies.”
He added that Israeli and U.S. companies were important to the creation of the state-of-the-art aircraft.
“From wing production to the helmet-mounted display to fuselage components, Israel’s innovative technologies have helped define this aircraft and its capabilities,” Carter said.
The F-35 is an important symbol of America’s commitment to Israel’s qualitative military edge, the secretary added, but “it’s only the most recent example of how our security cooperation continues to soar to new heights.”
The two nations have expanded cooperation into new domains in the last few years, including space and cyberspace, to prepare for 21st-Century threats,” Carter said. “And we’ll continue to provide Israel with the most advanced capabilities.”
“As we gather here today,” Carter said, “the U.S.-Israel defense relationship is stronger than it’s ever been, and America’s pledge to defend Israel’s security remains unwavering. Indeed, with the current turmoil in the region we’re more committed to Israel’s security today than ever before.”
Carter is on an around-the-world trip to thank deployed U.S. troops for their service over the holidays, meet with regional partners, and advance U.S. priorities, including the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and the lasting defeat of ISIL. The trip has included visits to Japan, India, Afghanistan, Bahrain and Israel.