The Israeli Air Force is being delivered the first two 5th Generation stealth jets on Monday. They will help Israel “retain its edge” in the Middle East.
The IAF is expected to take delivery of its first 2 F-35A Lightning II jets at Nevatim airbase, in southern Israel, on Dec. 12.
The aircraft, lacking the Israeli low-visibility roundels (that will be applied once delivered to the “customer”) are flown by U.S. pilots and supported by a U.S. Air Force KC-135 tanker.
On their way to Israel, the 5th generation jets have performed a stopover in Lajes, Azores, where they arrived using radio callsign “Retro 11” and “Retro 12” on Dec. 6, and then in Cameri, Italy, where they have landed on Dec. 8.
F-35A “Adir” 902 landing at Cameri airbase on Dec. 8, 2016.
The two Israeli F-35s, are the first and only of 50 Lightning II jets, designated “Adir” (“Mighty One”) by the Israeli, to be flown from the U.S.: the rest will be shipped by sea according to the IDF (Israeli Defense Force.)
“As the Middle East grows more and more unstable, and as groups that threaten to destroy us race to stockpile weapons, we need to stay a step ahead of the game. The F-35 gives us the edge we need to take on groups and armies with even the most advanced technology,” says the IDF in a blog on the imminent delivery.
The Israeli F-35s will have some domestic modifications and components provided by Israeli companies, including Israel Aerospace Industries that will produce the F-35’s outer wings, Elbit Systems-Cyclone, that will provide center fuselage composite components as well as Elbit Systems Ltd. that will provide Gen. III helmet-mounted display systems to be worn by all Lightning II pilots.
“Once the F-35 lands in Israel, it will be all our own. The IAF is adding its own systems to the jet, bringing a touch of the Start Up Nation to this already state-of-the-art plate. All maintenance and testing of the plane will be done in Israel, and the planes are projected to be operational in about one year.”
The IAF F-35As will be different from the “standard” F-35s, as they will employ national EW (Electronic Warfare) pods, weaponry, C4 systems etc. For this reason, Israeli F-35s are sometimes dubbed F-35I (for Israel.)
Despite criticism, Israel decided to exercise the option for another 17 aircraft. And there might also be some F-35Bs at the horizon to enable the Israeli Air Force to continue operating from dispersed locations in case of attack.
On Nov. 27, the Israeli Ministerial Committee for National Security, headed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided to purchase another 17 F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft, bringing the total to 50 Lightning II jets.
The first two examples of the controversial, expensive, advanced 5th Generation aircraft, designated “Adir” (“Mighty One”) by the Israeli, are expected to be delivered to the Israeli Air Force (IAF), at Nevatim Air Base in southern Israel, in about three weeks.
The Israeli F-35s will have some components contributed by Israeli companies, including Israel Aerospace Industries that will produce the F-35’s outer wings, Elbit Systems-Cyclone, that will provide center fuselage composite components as well as Elbit Systems Ltd. that will provide Gen. III helmet-mounted display systems to be worn by all Lightning II pilots.
Although the extent of “domestic” modifications is still unknown, the IAF F-35As will be somehow different from the “standard” F-35s, as they will embed national EW (Electronic Warfare) pods, weaponry, C4 systems etc. This is the reason why Israeli F-35s are sometimes dubbed F-35I (for Israel), as if they were a different variant from the three baseline versions (A, B and C).
For sure, the new sales represents a good promotion for Lockheed Martin, considered the fame of the Israeli Air Force, known to be one of the most advanced and very well equipped: if the F-35s were deemed to be able to meet all the requirements of a service with a really strong reputation, that has been at war for decades and has employed its combat planes to perform some really complex operations (like the air strikes on the Iraqi nuclear reactor and the Syrian nuclear facility in 2007), then they should be good for most of the world air forces (some of those continue to invest in the program.)
By the way, the news comes few days after Canada announced the plan to use F/A-18E/F Super Hornet multi-role fighters as “gap fillers” until Ottawa decides on a replacement for its fleet of legacy Hornet aircraft. In fact, after investing in the program for several decades, the new Trudeau Government canceled Canada’s planned purchase of the F-35 (considered too expensive) and announced a new, forthcoming open competition for a permanent CF-18 replacement.
Anyway, it seems that the IAF might end up operating F-35Bs as well.
Israel is a small country and its main airfields could be easily threatened by long-range weapons in the hands of state actors or handed over to militant movements like Hamas and Hezbollah: IAF’s only chance to continue operating in case of attack would be dispersing aircraft to remote locations, an option that would be viable only thanks to the unique F-35B STOVL capabilities.
Israel has contracted for 33 F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft through the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales program with an option for 17 more Joint Strike Fighters.
The aircraft will have components contributed by Israeli companies, including Israel Aerospace Industries that will produce the F-35’s outer wings, Elbit Systems-Cyclone, that will provide center fuselage composite components as well as Elbit Systems Ltd. that will provide Gen. III helmet-mounted display systems to be worn by all Lightning II pilots.
It’s still not clear how many “domestic” modifications, including EW (Electronic Warfare) pods, weaponry, C4 systems etc. the aircraft, sometimes dubbed F-35I (for Israel) will embed.
Although no specific dates or locations for the incidents were given, it looks like these close encounters occurred as Israeli Air Force jets hit Syria to prevent suspected arms handovers to Hezbollah.
According to Reuters, Israel’s Channel 10 TV said a Russian jet approached an Israeli warplane off the Mediterranean coast of Syria last week even though there was no contact between them.
Probably referring to the same episode, Debkafile reported of a “near clash” between four IAF F-15s and two Russian Su-30SMs on Apr. 20: flying over the Med, the Israeli jets approached Hmeymim airbase, near Latakia, in northwestern Syria, where the Russian Air Force contingent is headquartered, forcing the Russians to scramble two of their Sukhoi jets.
As of yet, the Kremlin has denied that Russian forces in Syria fired at Israeli military aircraft. It’s still not clear whether the “near clash” has occurred.
Air traffic observed in the much guarded Dimona reactor’s airspace.
Located a few kilometers southeast of Dimona, the Negev Nuclear Research Center is an Israeli nuclear facility used for nuclear research purposes.
The installation is also believed to be used for the production of material for the Israeli nuclear weapons and this is the reason why the airspace over the site is restricted and protected by the Israeli Air Force.
Every now and then unauthorized planes violate the No Fly Zone causing the IAF to scramble its F-16s in Quick Reaction Alert to identify and escort the “intruder” out of the restricted airspace. Or shoot it down, should the need arise.
Anyway, it’s quite rare to observe aircraft flying over the Israeli nuclear research center and this is the reason why any aerial activity spotted in the vicinity of Dimona is interesting.
On Mar. 10, one of our readers noticed something weird: an aircraft, “Blocked” by Flightradar24.com but trackable via MLAT could be observed as it performed several “racetracks” over Dimona.
Noteworthy, at a certain time, the plane appeared to cross the border with Jordan, although this is likely to be glitch of some sort, because the next moment this flightpath disappeared, and the plane reappeared well inside the Israeli airspace.
What the aircraft was doing is unknown: it could have been an AEW (Airborne Early Warning) plane supporting an air defense operation or exercise, or a spyplane gathering some intelligence or testing some new sensor.