Israel Air Force opens second F-35 squadron

The squadron will be called "Defenders of the Negev."

April 28, 2019 00:31
2 minute read.
F35 Adir fighter jet

The F35 fighter jet plane, also known as the Adir, on the Tarmac at Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas. (photo credit: LOCKHEED MARTIN / ALEXANDER H. GROVES)


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The Israel Air Force opened a second squadron of F-35 stealth fighter jets, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The squadron will be called “Defenders of the South.” According to industry sources, Israel will have 20 F-35I fighter jets by 2020.

Built by Lockheed Martin, the jets have an extremely low radar signature, allowing them to operate undetected deep inside enemy territory, as well as evade advanced missile defense systems like the S-300 and S-400, which have been deployed in countries such as Syria.

With close air-support capabilities and a massive array of sensors, pilots of the stealth jet have an unparalleled access to information while in the air.

The IAF currently has 14 F-35 Adir aircraft and is expected to receive a total of 50 planes to make two full squadrons by 2024.

With a need to keep ahead of increased threats in the Middle East, the IAF is set to decide within the coming months whether to place orders on several new aircraft to upgrade its aging squadrons.

The IAF is also now considering whether to purchase an additional 25 F-35s to give Israel a total of 75 stealth fighter jets.

While the F-35I has advantages such as intelligence gathering, the F-15IA’s assets closely match most missions carried out by the IAF, such as dealing with enemy missile launch sites or terror targets on its northern or southern borders.

Although the F-35 is considered one of the world’s most advanced fighter jets, the stealth aircraft is limited in the weapons they are able to carry, as they have to be stored in internal munition boxes to maintain a low radar signature.

And in parallel to the fifth-generation aircrafts, the IAF needs to retain its qualitative military edge and modernize an essential squadron of its fighter fleet. Most of the IAF’s F-15s are more than 30 years old, with the majority acquired in the second half of the 1970s, in comparison to the more advanced squadron of the F-15, as the F-15I arrived in Israel in the 1990s.

The F-15IA model that the IAF is leaning toward purchasing is one of the most advanced and cost-effective fighter planes ever to be built, with various upgrades to the earlier models such as more efficient engines and fly-by-wire avionics, which is considered the biggest change to the jet in 20 years.

Officials believe that a force mix of F-35I Adirs along with a squadron of F-15IA would allow Israel to carry out a number of complex operations, including any possible confrontation with Iran on its borders.

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