US defense secretary in Israel as country gets F-35 jets

Israeli air force officers salute toward one of the first two next-generation F-35 fighter jets during an unveiling ceremony after it landed in Nevatim Air Force base near Beersheba, southern Israel, on December 12, 2016.

During his brief visit in Israel, Carter is to meet with Liberman in the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, as part of his last visit as Defense Secretary.

So far, only the United States has "invisible" aircraft in operation, thus, their delivery to Israel is seen as a further boost to Israel's position in the Middle East. "It allows us to bring into action many abilities that are needed from the air force for superiority".

Israel was the first nation to sign a foreign military sales agreement with the United States to procure the F-35.

"Since the beginning, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce the price of the airplane by about 70 percent since its original costing, and we project it to be about 85 million dollars in the 2019 or 2020 time frame", said Jeff Babione, Lockheed Martin's F-35 programme leader. It is even stranger, because other planes in Italian airspace continued to take off and land while the F-35s were grounded.

"We'll continue to provide Israel with the most advanced capabilities, including more F-35s, to sharpen Israel's military qualitative edge", Carter said.

The Israeli air force is the first in the Middle East to have the planes.

The US had refused to let Israel equip the F-35 with some main systems that are connected to the main software block that controls the stealth aircraft systems.

"And it's my honor to be here marking the delivery of these planes ... to America's closest friend and ally in the region". Despite his input, however, most experts have said that reigning in the F-35 would prove a tall order for the new president.

Netanyahu issued a warning to Israel's enemies.

Nimrod Shefer, a retired Israeli air force major-general, said the new aircraft were a welcome addition. The stealth fighter is considered one of the most advanced aircraft in the world, capable of taking on most missile defense batteries, including the Russian S-300, which was recently acquired by Iran, and which has been used in Syria, where Israeli planes have recently reportedly flown sorties.

Some in Israel have also said the price of the planes will limit the number that can ultimately be purchased, while losing any in combat will be particularly costly. Today, the new sound of air domination comes from the F-35 manufactured by Lockheed Martin.

In his remarks, Carter, who is now on a two-week long global farewell tour, said that the fighter jets are a great symbol of US-Israeli relations and both countries will together "dominate the skies".

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