The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has retired its early model Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon combat aircraft following the completion of deliveries of the Alenia M-346 Master advanced jet trainer and the arrival of the first of its Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters (JSFs).
The last of the IAF's approximately 90 F-16A/B 'Netz' fighters were officially withdrawn from service during a ceremony at Ouvda Air Force Base (AFB) in southern Israel on 26 December.
The event, which marked the end of 36 years of continuous operations for the type, came some months after the arrival of the last M-346 'Lavi' at Hatzerim AFB in July, and just days after the arrival of the first F-35A 'Adir' fighters at Nevatim AFB on 13 December.
As noted by the IAF, the first F-16A/B aircraft were delivered to the service on 2 July 1980. In April 1981 the type scored its first success with the shooting down of a Syrian Mil Mi-8 'Hip' transport helicopter, while its most famous success came in the same year with a raid targeting Saddam Hussein's nuclear facilities in Iraq.
Since 2000, the Netz has been increasingly replaced in the frontline role by the Boeing F-15I 'Raam' and Lockheed Martin F-16I 'Sufa', and been used mainly as an operational trainer platform. During the course of its national service, the 'Netz' conducted 474,000 sorties over 335,000 flight hours.
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