[Editor’s Note: The Israeli F-35I is going to be a different animal than its American counterparts, much like the Eagles and Vipers currently fielded by the IAF. While we can’t get into specifics, suffice it to say we’re pretty excited to see what our friends will end up doing to make their Joint Strike Fighter the perfect solution to their future tactical aviation needs.]

Lockheed Martin has officially begun assembly of Israel’s first F-35 “Adir” fighter jet at the company’s facility in Fort Worth, Texas.

The aircraft, designated AS-1, last week began its “mate” process, where the major components are joined to form the full structure, according to a Jan. 10 Lockheed statement. Lockheed plans to deliver AS-1 to the Israel Air Force (IAF) later this year.

“These 5th Generation aircraft will greatly enhance the IAF’s ability to defend the State of Israel from the serious threats we face,” Aharon Marmarosh, director of the Israel Ministry of Defense Mission in New York, said in the statement.

The Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon visited the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II assembly line, where their 5th Generation fighter aircraft is being built. (Lockheed-Martin Photo)

Israel plans to buy a total of 33 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing aircraft to replace its aging F-15s and F-16s. Israel is also a key contributor to development of the plane; its Elbit Systems is partnered with Rockwell Collins on the Generation III helmet, which provides pilots a 360-degree view of the battlefield.

Laura Seligman’s original article can be viewed here.

(Featured Photo courtesy of Lockheed-Martin)