Key point: Israel is well-practiced at improving on American military technology.
For fifty years, the United States has provided top-of-the-line fighter aircraft to help defend Israel from attack. Israel’s fielding of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, known locally as Adir, continues that tradition even as the country puts its own technological touch on the fifth-generation fighter. Unlike other F-35 customers, Israel is modifying its fighters from the outset to address unique security challenges and the country’s technological capabilities.
The United States began sending first-line fighters to Israel in the late 1960s, when the F-4E Phantom II joined the Israeli Air Force. The F-4s were followed by the F-15A Eagle air superiority fighter in 1976, and by the F-16A Fighting Falcon multirole fighter in 1980. These fighters were eventually followed by the F-15C, F-15I strike fighter, and F-16C and F-16I fighters. With the exception of the F-22 Raptor, the Israeli Air Force’s fighter fleet is as well equipped as the U.S. Air Force’s.