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Israel shows off F-35 stealth fighters for first time
[TEL AVIV] Israel showed off its new F-35 stealth fighter jets recently delivered from the United States on Tuesday as part of an air show marking its annual Independence Day celebrations.
Three of Israel's five stealth fighters took to the skies along the Mediterranean coast off Tel Aviv as thousands of people gathered at the waterfront to watch.
The F-35s, made by US-based Lockheed Martin, were the highlight of the show, which marked 69 years of Israeli independence.
Israel has received the initial five jets since December with the aim of allowing it to maintain its military superiority in the turbulent Middle East, particularly regarding its arch-foe Iran.
It plans to purchase a total of 50 F-35s. Its first jets are to be operational this year.
While other countries have ordered the planes, Israel - which receives more than US$3 billion a year in US defence aid - says it will be the first outside the United States with an operational F-35 squadron.
Israel is buying its first 33 F-35s at an average price of about US$110 million each - and the price tag has been criticised both in Israel and elsewhere.
Among its main features are advanced stealth capabilities to help pilots evade sophisticated missile systems.
The single-pilot jets can carry an array of weapons and travel at a supersonic speed of Mach 1.6, or around 1,900 kilometres per hour.
The pilot's ultra-high-tech helmet, at a cost of about US$400,000 each, includes its own operating system, with data that appears on the visor and is also shared elsewhere.
Thermal and night vision as well as 360-degree views are possible with cameras mounted on the plane.