Tag Archives: Israeli Air Force

The Israeli F-35I “Adir” Declared Operational. So What’s Next?

Little less than a year after the first two aircraft were delivered to Israel, the Israeli Air Force F-35s have achieved IOC (Initial Operational Capability).

On Dec. 6, 2017, the Israeli Air Force has declared its first F-35 Lightning II jets, designated “Adir” (“Mighty One”) by the Israeli, operational.

“The declaration of the squadron’s operational capability is occurring at a time in which the IAF is operating on a large scale in a number of fronts, in the constantly changing Middle East”, said Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, Commander of the IAF in an official blog. “The operational challenge, which is becoming more and more complex each day, receives an excellent aerial response. The ‘Adir’ aircraft’s operational status adds a significant layer to the IAF’s capabilities at this time”.

The Israeli Air Force has so far received 9 aircraft that have been assigned to the 140 Sqn (“Golden Eagle”) at Nevatim airbase. The first two aircraft were delivered on Dec. 12, 2016. Five have been chosen for the assessment that has been conducted to declare the fleet IOC. As a side note, the status of the F-35 was grounded after suffering a birdstrike last month, sparking speculations that it might have been hit by the Syrian Air Defenses during a covert air strike, is unknown. Anyway, the Israeli F-35 is the first outside of the United States to be declared operational, preceded only by the U.S Marine Corps and U.S Air Force. The Italian Air Force, that has received 8 F-35s so far, has not declared IOC yet (at least officially).

“The inspection examined missions and scenarios that include all of the operational elements required to fly the ‘Adir’, from the ground to the air”, shared Lt. Col. Yotam, Commander of the 140th (“Golden Eagle”) Squadron, which operates the “Adir”. “I am confident in the division’s capability to reach operational preparedness and feel that the pressure is positive and healthy”.

What does IOC mean? Using U.S. Air Force lingo, it means that the IAF has enough operational aircraft, trained pilots, maintainers and support equipment to conduct operational missions using program of record weapons and missions systems. In simple words, it means the aricraft are capable of flying actual combat missions.

Throughout 2018, the “Golden Eagle” Squadron is expected to integrate six more fighters, while the next aircraft are scheduled to land in Israel early in the summer.

“We have yet to complete our acquaintance with the aircraft. We still have tests, development of combat doctrines and extensive learning before us”, concluded Lt. Col. Yotam in the official statement. “We haven’t stopped learning thinking and developing upon being declared operational. The establishment of the division doesn’t end with this inspection, it just begins. Will the ‘Adir’ participate in the next military campaign? I have no doubt. An aircraft like this brings capabilities to the IAF that it didn’t have before; it is an important strategic asset”.

An Israeli F-35A departs Nevatim. (Credit: IAF)

The IAF has always been enthusiastic and vocal about the fifth generation aircraft: “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,” said the IDF in a blog that preceded the delivery of the new aircraft.

In a farewell interview with Haaretz, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, former IAF Commander said: “Not everything is perfect […] There are some things you only learn on your feet. This happens with every plane that we add. But when you take off in this jet from Nevatim [IAF base], you can’t believe it. When you ascend to around 5,000 feet, the entire Middle East is yours at the cockpit. It is unbelievable what you can see. The American pilots that come to us didn’t experience that because they fly there, in Arizona, in Florida. Here they suddenly see the Middle East as a fighting zone. The threats, the various players, are in short range as well as in long range. Only then do you grasp the tremendous potential this machine has. We already see it with our own eyes.”

“This jet brings us everything we’ve dreamed of doing, in one package,” said another senior air force source, speaking on the condition of anonymity to Al-Monitor media outlet earlier this year. “It’s all concentrated on one table for us. As we all know, the F-35 can reach places in a way that others can’t. But in addition, it integrates high-level operational capabilities as well as the ability to read and analyze a battle map. The earlier, fourth-generation jets are excellent at maneuvering and activating sophisticated weapons systems, but they are not able to collect intelligence and independently analyze battle movement. The F-35 can do all this by itself in real time, with only one pilot sitting in the cockpit. We have never had such an operational capability until today. Until now, attack aircraft were operated independently of air support aircraft. The former waited to receive analysis of the battle picture that came from the latter. But in the F-35, everything is on the same platform, and this is no less than amazing. When you connect that to several aircraft, you receive strategic capability for the State of Israel.”

Indeed, what makes the F-35 one of the world’s most advanced aircraft is its high-end electronic intelligence gathering sensors combined with advanced sensor fusion capabilities to create a single integrated picture of the battlefield. However, electronic intelligence capabilities similar to those that the Israeli aircraft can put in place to get a pretty detailed view of the Middle East, can be used by neighbouring nations to spy on their fifth generation jet.

According to the same sources who talked to Al-Monitor, the heavy presence of Russian radars and ELINT platforms in Syria cause some concern: the Russians are currently able to identify takeoffs from Israeli bases in real-time and might use collected data to “characterize” the F-35’s signature at specific wavelengths as reportedly done with the U.S. F-22s.

In fact, tactical fighter-sized stealth aircraft are built to defeat radar operating at specific frequencies; usually high-frequency bands as C, X, Ku and S band where the radar accuracy is higher (in fact, the higher the frequency, the better is the accuracy of the radar system).

However, once the frequency wavelength exceeds a certain threshold and causes a resonant effect, LO aircraft become increasingly detectable. For instance, ATC radars, that operate at lower-frequency bands are theoretically able to detect a tactical fighter-sized stealth plane whose shape features parts that can cause resonance. Radars that operate at bands below 300 MHz (lower UHF, VHF and HF radars), such as the so-called Over The Horizon (OTH) radars, are believed to be particularly dangerous for stealth planes: although they are not much accurate (because lower frequency implies very large antenna and lower angle accuracy and angle resolution) they can spot stealth planes and be used to guide fighters equipped with IRST towards the direction the LO planes might be.

For these reasons, in the same way the U.S. spyplanes do with all the Russian Su-35S, Su-30SM, S-400 in Syria, it’s safe to assume Russian advanced anti-aircraft systems are “targeting” the Israeli F-35s and its valuable emissions, forcing the IAF to adapt its procedures and leverage the presence of other aircraft to “hide” the “Adir” when and where it could theoretically be detected. “This has created a situation in which the IAF is adapting itself to the F-35 instead of adapting the jet to the air force. The goal, they say at the IAF, is to use the F-35 to upgrade the fourth generation jets that will fly around the F-35,” commented Al-Monitor’s Ben Caspit.

An Israeli “Adir” flies alongside a “Sufa”

Although it was just declared operational, it will take a few years to “completely” understand and exploit the stealth jet’s capabilities. Even more so, considered that the Israeli F-35s will have some domestic modifications and components provided by Israeli companies, that the IAF has not even begun the process of installing and integrating on the jet. Indeed, 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.

Meanwhile the Israeli F-35s will probably see some action, validating the tactical procedures to be used by the new aircraft, fine tuning the ELINT capabilities of the “Adir” to detect, geolocate and classify enemy‘s new/upgraded systems, as well as testing the weapons system (and the various Israeli “customizations”) during real operations as part of “packages” that will likely include other special mission aircraft and EW (Electronic Warfare) support.

But only if really needed: the Israeli Air Force “legacy” aircraft have often shown their ability to operate freely in the Syrian airspace, using stand-off weaponry, without needing most of the fancy 5th generation features; therefore, it’s safe to assume the Israelis will commit their new aircraft if required by unique operational needs, as already happened in the past (in 1981, the first Israeli F-16s took part in Operation Opera, one of the most famous operations in Israeli Air Force history, one year after the first “Netz” aircraft was delivered and before all the F-16As were taken on charge by the IAF).

As we have already reported, IAF may also purchase some F-35Bs, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) version of the Joint Strike Fighter, that would allow the Israeli to have a squadron or two of multirole aircraft able to take off and land from austere/dispersed landing strips should Iran be able to wipe out IAF airbases with precision weapons.

So, Israel’s “journey” with the F-35 jet has just begun.

Poland Deploys Its F-16 Jets For Blue Flag 2017, Israel’s Largest Ever Exercise

Blue Flag is the largest ever aerial exercise in Israel.

Gathering more than 100 aircraft from 8 countries, Exercise Blue Flag 2017, underway at Ovda, in Israel, is the biggest exercise ever organized by the Israeli Air Force. Combat planes from the United States, Greece, Poland, France, Germany, India, Italy and Israel are taking part in the drills.

The main focus of the exercise has been placed on reconnaissance, air-strikes and SEAD operations.

As the Polska Zbrojna outlet reports, Poland has sent six F-16 jets and 120 soldiers to participate in the operation. Starting from Nov. 2. the Polish pilots were involved in briefings, with the first missions scheduled for the subsequent weekend.

The exercise involves large multinational flight-groups with a variety of aircraft types in a classic COMAO scenario. The Polish pilots are stating that the experiences gathered during the operation would be invaluable, with the flights taking place over the whole territory of Israel, over the deserts, the sea, at night and during the day.

One of the issues that the pilots need to get ready for is the fact that the air over the operational theater in Israel would by much more dusty, with a possible impact on operation of the sensors, as one of the Polish pilots, Col. Przemysław Struj, said within his statement for Polska Zbrojna.

Nonetheless the experience is not be entirely new for the Polish crews as the Polish F-16 aircraft have already taken part in a Blue Flag exercise in the past and have supported Operation Inherent Resolve, the US-led air war on ISIS, from Kuwait. However, for some of the pilots the Blue Flag operation will be a first-time flying over the desert. The scenario also assumes usage of means of electronic warfare.

Image Credit: Filip Modrzejewski

Israeli Air Force Jets Hit Targets Near Homs During Latest Covert Air Strike In Syria

Latest Israeli Air Strikes May Escalate if Iranian Involvement in Region Grows.

Israeli combat aircraft secretly pounded targets in the Hisya area of Syria south of the city of Homs on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. The air raid, the latest in a long series of Israeli air strikes in the region, targeted a “storage facility in an industrial complex” according to the pro-Syrian government media outlet Masdar News. The Israeli military has declined to comment on this, most recent, in a series of airstrikes. Israel’s Channel 10 news outlet said no aircraft were hit during the strike and all Israeli planes returned safely to base.

Although unconfirmed, at least one media outlet suggested the facility may have been used to house chemical weapons.

Photo published on Debka.com showing alleged damage from Israeli F-16 strike on November 1, 2017. (Photo: Debka.com)

The most recent Israeli airstrikes continue an escalating series of attacks launched by Israel into Syria. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have occasionally tweeted that some of the air strikes are in response to provocative actions on the part of terrorist groups in the region. Israel has remained silent about some of the airstrikes.

Among the most recent incidents:

  • On September 7, 2017, Israeli aircraft struck Syria’s Masyaf chemical site in response to intelligence suggesting chemical weapons may be produced or stored there. An unspecified international monitoring organization quoted in a BBC report said the target was a scientific research center storing surface-to-surface missiles. The Israelis issued no official statement about the incident.
  • On September 18, 2017, an Israeli MIM-104D Patriot missile engaged and shot down a “Hezbollah intelligence gathering drone” according to media reports. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tweeted that Monday that, “A short while ago, the IDF intercepted a UAV that attempted to infiltrate Israeli airspace in the Golan Heights”. Media outlet Fox News reported that the drone shot down was an Iranian-made reconnaissance drone that launched from an air base in Syria. The report said it was believed to be operated by Hezbollah militants. The drone, which did not infiltrate Israeli territory, fell in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights.
  • On October 16, 2017, Israeli combat jets struck and destroyed a Syrian anti-aircraft missile battery east of Damascus, Syria. The Israeli airstrike was in response to anti-aircraft fire against one of its aircraft in Lebanese air space performing a photographic reconnaissance mission according to the Israelis.
  • On October 21, 2017, Israeli aircraft launched precision strikes against artillery emplacements in Syria. Israeli reports posted on Twitter said three enemy artillery emplacements were destroyed.

The Israeli Air Force, and in particular its F-16 units, have earned a reputation as being highly effective. Some sources suggest they may be, “Man for man, the best air force in the world”.

Israeli F-16 units are often considered the most combat proficient in the world as a result of training and operational experience. (Photo: IDF)

A May 2001 report in Jane’s Defense quoted on the IsraelMilitary.net news forum said, “U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets from the Balkans theater recently engaged in mock combat with Israeli Air Force fighters. The Hornets were armed with AIM-9 (Sidewinder air-to-air missiles) and the Israelis carried Python 3 and Python 4 missiles using the Elbit DASH helmet mounted sight. IDR’s source described the results as ‘more than ugly’, the Israelis prevailing in 220 of the 240 engagements”

Noteworthy, after most of the recent air strikes there have been speculations that the first, brand new F-35I “Adir” might have been involved in the raids: in particular, after the Oct. 16 attack on a Syrian SAM battery, there were unconfirmed reports that an IAF F-35 was hit by the Syrian air defenses because on the very same day the IDF announced an “Adir” had been grounded following a birdstrike.

Top image credit: Tomas Del Coro/Wiki

Israeli Air Force F-35I “Adir” Involved In A Bird Strike Incident Gets Grounded

An Israeli Air Force F-35 has been involved in a bird strike during a training sortie. And the incident has fueled some weird speculations…

An Israeli Air Force F-35I “Adir” (Mighty) was involved in a bird strike incident during a training sortie two weeks ago, the Israeli Defense Forces said on Oct. 16. The pilot managed to land the plane safely back at Nevatim Air Force Base in the Negev Desert and no casualties were reported.

This is the first incident to an F-35 in IAF service since the first two aircraft have been taken on charge by the 140 “Golden Eagle” squadron in December last year.

The IDF confirmed those details to Israeli media outlets: “During a training sortie two hits were found on the plane, following to a collision with a bird. After an evaluation and assessment of the damage conducted together with the manufacturer – Lockheed Martin, the plane was sent to a normal maintenance and repair. It will return to full service in the next few days.”

Seven “Adir” aircraft have been delivered to the Israeli Air Force since December 2016. In August, a deal was completed for the purchase of another 17 such aircraft: therefore 50 such aircraft will be operated by the IAF equipping two squadrons. The total amount of the deal to purchase the 50 aircraft is estimated at 6B USD.

Meanwhile, the Golden Eagle Squadron continues to perform a wide array of flight tests to verify the 5th generation aircraft capabilities. The Squadron is scheduled to become operational by the end of this year.

The news of the birdstrike incident was released on the very same day the Israeli targeted a Syrian SAM battery that had attacked IDF aircraft during a routine flight over Lebanon fueling speculations that the F-35 was not grounded by a birdstrike but because it was hit by the Syrian air defenses. In fact, the Syrian Defense Ministry said in its statement that government forces responded to the violation of the airspace and “directly hit one of the jets, forcing [Israeli aircraft] to retreat.” On the other side the Israeli denied any aircraft was hit by the Syrian air defenses (S-200 battery) and this sounds quite reasonable considered that the Israeli have often shown their ability to operate freely in the Syrian airspace and there would have been no reason to disclose a fake birdstrike at all to cover a Syrian hit.

Image credit: Author

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Photos Of AH-64D Apache Armed With “Spike” Missiles Prove That The Weapon Is Operational For the Israeli Attack Helicopters

Recent photos show the Israeli Air Force AH-64D carrying Rafael “Spike” missiles.

Taken by Noam Menashe recently, the images in this post show IAF AH-64D “Saraf” of the 113 “Hornet” Squadron based at Ramon, Israel, carrying the indigenous Spike missile system in what appear to be the NLOS (Non-Line Of Sight) variant.

According to AFM, the photos have been cleared by the Israel Defense Forces censor proving that the missile system is now officially considered part of the Israeli “Saraf” armoury.

The NLOS is an ultra-long range version of the precision attack system believed to have a maximum range of up to 25 km and a weight of 70 kg.

According to Rafael, the SPIKE NLOS weapon system can be operated in either direct attack upon target detection using LOBL (Lock-on Before Launch) Mode or firing from stand-off in automatic navigation mode based on operator or target acquisition system provided coordinates (INS navigation).
A bidirectional RF data link enables transmission of the missile seeker video image to the operator as well as real-time updating or steering of the missile.

Indeed, along with the range and non-line of sight firing capability, the electro-optically guided Spike has the ability to switch between targets and abort its mission if the operator believes the initial target should no longer be engaged.

Spike NLOS can also receive target data from remote target acquisition systems, such as airborne UAVs, or remotely operated via networked command and control systems. The communications between the missile and operator is conducted over an optical fiber, enabling effective, broadband, secure two-way communications.

The AH-64D “Saraf” 743 with the Spike NLOS missiles. Image credit: Noam Menashe

 

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