The Israeli air force says its newly acquired F-35 warplanes are now ready to defend the country’s airspace, adding a significantly improved war fighting capability to the Jewish state at a time of escalating tensions.

The nine-plane squadron became operational less than a year after the U.S. delivered the first two fifth-generation fighters.

In its Dec. 6 announcement, the Israel Defense Force noted that it and the U.S. military are the only two with operational F-35s.

The IDF said the plane “enhances strategic and operational capabilities” and improves readiness “in a wide range of scenarios and threats in all arenas.”

The announcement comes just days after regional reports claimed that Syrian air defense batteries had launched missiles at Israeli jets that had fired on a suspected Iranian compound.

It also “comes at a time in which the IAF is operating on a large scale on a number of fronts in a dynamic Middle East,” said Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin. [source]

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