Israel has become the first country to use the US-made F-35 stealth fighter jet in combat, the country’s air force chief has claimed.
“We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East and have already attacked twice on two different fronts,” Major-General Amikam Norkintold the chiefs of 20 foreign air forces at a conference in Israel.
Israel’s air force had “twice carried out strikes with the F-35, on two different fronts,” local media quoted him as saying.
While he did not specify when or where those attacks took place, he said the F-35 was not used in Israel’s unprecedented bombardment of Iranian targets inside Syria.
Recently, Israel has carried out scores of airstrikes in the country, which has been wrecked by civil war, targetingsuspected Iranian emplacements or arms transfers to Hezbollah guerillas in neighbouring Lebanon.
Its air force is also widely believed to have operated against Islamist militants in the Egyptian Sinai, as well as against Hamas smugglers in Sudan.
Major-General Norkin also showed an image of an Israeli F-35 flying over Beirut, Lebanon, in what theTimes of Israel interpreted asa threat to Hezbollah. The photo was not made available to the media.
The F-35, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, is manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp.
In Israel, it is known by its Hebrew name, “Adir,” meaning Mighty.
Israel became the first country outside of the United States to acquire the fighter jet in December 2016, when it received two planes.
According to Israeli media, at least nine have been delivered so far, out of a total expected 50.
Already the world’s costliest arms programme, the development of the F-35 has been dogged by criticism.
A top defence blog has claimedthe jet isinferior to the fighters it was designed to replace, due to issues with manoeuvrability and visibility in the cockpit due to a bulky helmet.