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.
Several media outlets claimed that the two IAF fighter jets came “dangerously close” to the Ryanair aircraft, which had 162 passengers on board, and that a mid-air collision was prevented only thanks to the airliner pilot who changed the course of his aircraft at the very last moment.
But as reported by TimesofIsrael.com, Ryanair denied any claim of a near-miss.
According to the airline, the flight from Krakow to Ovda was cruising at 27,000 ft in Israeli airspace when the aircrew noticed two IAF F-16s climbing towards their flight path. As pointed out by a Ryanair statement, the two fighters remained at “3 miles away from the aircraft, so the reports of a ‘nearly crash’ or ‘evasive manoeuvres’ are all false and invented.”
The airline also added that the Ryanair aircrew alerted the Air Traffic Control which vectored the F-16s away from their Boeing 737.
“All passengers on board the Ryanair aircraft noticed nothing, since our aircraft never diverted from its cleared flight path to Ovda.”
Although no injures or damages were reported, Israel’s Transportation Ministry and the Israeli Air Force will investigate the matter.
Russia has recently lifted the ban on sale of S-300 systems to Iran.
The S-300 is a mobile air defense system that couples a radars capable to track multiple targets with long-range missiles to hit aerial targets at a distance of 150 km and an altitude up to 27,000 meters. Although well-known to the western air forces, it remains a lethal SAM system that Iran could field to protect its nuclear sites.
From Apr. 20 to 30, at least 150 combat planes from all Combat Wings/Squadrons of the HAF performed various missions, day and night, such as Counter Air Operations against Integrated Air Defence Systems, Anti Surface Force Air Operations, Fighter Sweep, HVAAE (High Value Asset Air Escort), Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), Time Sensitive Targets, Dynamic Targeting – Time Sensitive Targets.
Israel deployed 10 F-16I Sufa jets from four Squadrons (201 «The One», 253 «The Negev», 107 «The Knights of the Orange Tail» and 119 «The Bat) at the 117 Combat Wing/Andravida Air Base and U.S. Air Force in Europe dispatched a number of SF personnel as JTACs (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers).
The Israeli AF Commander Maj Gen Amir Eshel visited the troops and flew at least one mission over Aegean Sea along with his Greek counterpart Lt Gen Christos Vaitsis (with F-16D Block52+ ADV of 335 Sq. “Tiger”).