F-35 Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Yotam and his deputy Capt. D. took Israel's new stealth jets for their first flight over the country at about 1pm on Tuesday, the first time the planes were piloted by an Israeli.
The two planes, the 901 and 902, which arrived in the country on Monday, took off in perfect weather from the Nevatim Air Force Base for a short, preliminary, unarmed test flight that took about an hour. The planes flew above the south of Israel and were accompanied by IAF F-16s.
Yotam's unit, the Golden Eagle Squadron, trained for this moment on American flight simulators. This was the first time that Israeli pilots controlled the cockpit on the F-35s. They took off after long preparations by the ground crew. In the coming days, the planes will remain mostly on the ground to allow the technical teams to get better acquainted with the sophisticated machine.
Yotam explained last week to Ynet that the purpose of the first flight, and indeed those of all flights with the F-35 in the near future, would be principally to get a feel of the jet, to practice takeoffs and landings, and to get to know the basic elements of the world's most advanced aircraft, which costs some $90–10 million.