WATCH: F-35 refuels en route to Israel
The first two stealth aircraft of Israel's order, set to arrive to great pomp in the country on Monday, have their first stopover in the Azores; they will spend the weekend in Italy before coming to Israel and having Stars of David affixed to them by IDF officers.
The Israel Air Force's first F-35s are en route to the country to be greeted in an elaborate ceremony, and one was filmed refueling mid-flight on Thursday.
The first two planes departed from Texas this week and had their first stopover on Tuesday in Portugal's Azores Islands. Over the weekend, the two Americans piloting the planes and their refueling tanker will make a further stop in Italy before arriving on Monday in Israel. Israel is set to receive 19 such planes in the near future.
The F-35s have been subject to considerable disparagement. Its price ($80 to $90 million per plane) relative to the advanced F-16 warplanes, its flight range and its limited ability to fly undetected by enemy radar were all criticized.
The aircrafts were officially received at a ceremony in Dallas, Texas, in June. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman participated in the ceremony, where he addressed around 400 guests.
“The State of Israel is proud to be the first in our region to receive and operate the plane,” said Lieberman. “This is the most advanced plane in the world and the best decision of the security apparatus is to preserve air supremacy. It is obvious and well-known to us that the F-35 will serve as deterrence and increase our military abilities for a long time to come.”