TechF-35I Adir guarantees Israeli dominance in the skies of the Middle East

F‑35I Adir guarantees Israeli dominance in the skies of the Middle East

F-35I Adir
F-35I Adir
Images source: © IDF | Amit Agronov
6:37 AM EDT, October 18, 2023

The war led by Israel against Hamas is not limited to the Gaza Strip. In addition to attacks on terrorist bases within its borders, Israel also targets sites in Syria. Dominance in the air is provided by a unique version of the F-35 - the F-35I Adir jets in a configuration not available to any other country in the world.

"We fly F-35s all over the Middle East and we have already attacked twice on two different fronts" - stated the commander of the Israeli Air Forces, General Amikam Norkin. It was the year 2018, and the head of the Israeli Air Force was speaking to an audience consisting of 20 military leaders from other countries, who had gathered in Israel for this purpose.

The General showed an unusual photograph on this occasion: a picture of F-35s over Beirut, taken during one of the operations of the Israeli Air Force. Shortly after, the media - because official sources in the Israeli armed forces were silent on the subject - began to report on further, unusual attacks and missions of Israeli aircraft over various countries in the region, including over Iran.

The topic of Israeli aviation has resurfaced in the context of the war announced on October 7, with Hamas. Its early stage - possibly before Israeli ground forces invade the Gaza Strip - lies on the shoulders of Israeli aviation.

See also: Is it NATO equipment, or Russian?

Airplanes with the Star of David on their wings do not only attack the Gaza Strip. Israel has not commented on this matter yet, but recent attacks on targets located in Syria, such as airports in Aleppo or Damascus, suggest that it is trying to block Iranian weapons supplies for terrorists from the air.

Currently, its core consists of combat aircraft belonging to four types: F-15 Eagle, F-15E Strike Eagle (in terms of strike capabilities, the F-15E is a completely different machine than the F-15 Fighter), F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F-35 Lightning II.

These airplanes are operated in a local variant, adapted to Israeli requirements. This also applies to the F-35.

F-35I Adir - the only one of its kind Lightning II

Israel is the only country in the world that has its own, unique version of the F-35. The details remain secret, but it is known that the F-35I variant has some of its avionics supplied not by the American manufacturer, but by the Israeli company Elbit. This includes systems responsible for navigation, communication, or electronic warfare.

F-35I Adir
F-35I Adir© IDF

Israel can also integrate its F-35s with its own weaponry (like SPICE bombs), without being dependent on the aircraft manufacturer in this regard. Servicing and repairs are also extremely important. The Israeli authorities assume that in the event of a war surrounded by Arab countries, Israel could be cut off from external supplies.

Therefore, both current service, repairs, or upgrades to the F-35s can be carried out on site, using the resources of the Israeli industry. This is possible thanks to Israel's access to the system responsible for technical condition control, repairs, or ordering parts (ALIS/ODIN) and locating in this country a separate warehouse with a stock of parts intended for Israeli aircraft.

Beyond the USA, Israel is the only other country that can, for example, make alterations to an airplane's fuselage structure or carry out such demanding repairs like replacing wings, a production line for which - intended also for export - has been launched in Israel.

Limitations for pilots

The unique privilege of Israel concerning F-35 aircraft carries many consequences. One of them is the cost of each unit - undisclosed, but higher than usual F-35A.

In giving their consent to the export of F-35s to Israel, the Americans also set a number of unusual requirements, including a ban on flights for Israeli military pilots with dual citizenship.

An unusual requirement also appeared in the matter of cars, which Israeli pilots use. Americans had objections to vehicles produced in China and their onboard systems, which - according to the Pentagon - could be used to intercept sensitive information.

Ultimately, the USA and Israel reached an agreement on contentious issues, and the Israeli aviation - in addition to the ordered 50 units - decided to order an additional 25 machines.

Flying sensor

It's hard to consider Hamas an equal opponent for some of the most advanced war machines in the world. Israel itself recognizes this, who, due to the scale of operations, but also the economics of war, reached deep into its warehouses. It pulled out the old, unguided M117 bombs, weapons that debuted during the Korean War.

To deploy them, officially only for targets in uninhabited areas, no technological miracle like the F-35 is needed. However, the role of this aircraft in the Israeli Air Force is difficult to overstate, because the F-35 is much more than a flying bomb and missile launcher, but - above all - an aerial platform for various sensors and electronic warfare station.

This role currently seems to be the most important in the context of the actions of Israel's aviation, carrying out missions over both the Gaza Strip and the northern part of the country, mainly over Syria.

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