A U.S. pilot (L) who flighted a F-35 fighter jet receives welcome in Nevatim Air Force Base near Beersheva, Israel, Dec. 12, 2016. Israel's air force on Monday received its first two F-35 advanced stealth fighter jets, which the country said will give it a qualitative edge over its neighbors for years to come. (Xinhua/Guo Yu)
JERUSALEM, Dec. 12 (Xinhua) -- Israel's air force on Monday received its first two F-35 advanced stealth fighter jets, which the country said will give it a qualitative edge over its neighbors for years to come.
The planes, flown by the U.S. pilots, arrived six hours after schedule due to delay in take-off from Italy because of heavy fog.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, senior defense officials, joined by U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, gathered in the Nevatim Air Force Base in southern Israel for an official welcoming ceremony for planes.
In remarks ahead of the ceremony, Netanyahu lauded the new purchase. "Israel's long arm of defense was just made longer and stronger today," he said in a statement.
"I want to say clearly -- anybody who thinks of attacking us will be attacked. Only strength brings deterrence, and only strength brings peace," he said.
Rivlin said the arrival of the jets "changes the Middle East." According to Rivlin, "the aircraft will change the rules of the game".
In a bid to boost its military superiority in the region, Israel has purchased 50 F-35s. The rest of the planes are expected to arrive by 2021.
The plane, named by the air force as "Adir" ("mighty" in Hebrew), is regarded by the military as the world's most advanced fighter jet.
"A strong air force means a strong IDF, and a strong IDF means a strong State of Israel and a strong people of Israel," Lieberman said in a statement ahead of the ceremony.
The Israeli air force is the first in the Middle East to have the planes.
"Our enemies have already known that Israel is not worthwhile to harm."
The F-35, also known as Joint Strike Fighter, has stealth capability that makes it nearly invisible to radars.
The F-35 is part of the Pentagon's 400-billion-dollar program to develop and build the next generation of jet fighters that will replace current warplanes of the U.S. and a small number of its allies.
The aircraft, manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp., was criticized in the U.S. Congress over its costs and alleged engineering flaws.