Israeli leaders and top U.S. officials were on hand to welcome the first delivery of the state-of-the-art F-35 stealth fighter jets at an air force base in Israel.
The ceremony, which was delayed for several hours due to poor weather conditions, was attended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, along with U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro and officials from Lockheed Martin, the plane’s manufacturer.
Netanyahu began his remarks by thanking U.S. President Barack Obama, Congress and the American people, saying that Israel “was just made stronger today.”
“I want to be clear, anyone who thinks of attacking us, will be attacked,” Netanyahu said. “History has taught us that only strength brings deterrence, only strength brings peace and respect.”
In his remarks, Carter, who is currently on a two-week long global farewell tour, said that there is no better symbol of U.S.-Israeli relations than the F-35 and that both countries together will “dominate the skies.”
“We’ll continue to provide Israel with the most advanced capabilities, including more F-35s, to sharpen Israel’s military qualitative edge,” Carter said. “With the turmoil in the region, we’re more dedicated to Israel’s security today than ever before.”
The highly anticipated F-35 fighter jets are widely viewed as the most advanced fighter aircraft in the world and have the capability to counter even the most sophisticated air defense systems such as the Russian S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missiles. Israel is the first foreign country permitted to purchase the planes and so far has agreed to buy 52 planes at a cost of roughly of $100 million each.
Adir F-35 Lands in Israel