World’s most advanced fighter jet a boon for IAF

The planes, which cost around $100 million each, are being purchased as part of the military aid agreement between the United States and Israel.

November 30, 2016 03:59
3 minute read.
F35 Adir fighter jet

The Lockheed Martin F35 fighter jet plane, also known as the Adir, in a test flight. (photo credit: LOCKHEED MARTIN AERONAUTICS/ LIZ LUTZ)

The acquisition of the US-made F-35 stealth fighter jets will give Israel complete air superiority in the Middle East for the next 40 years, according to senior Israeli officials.

With the skies in the region becoming more crowded than ever due to the ongoing conflict in Syria, and neighboring countries like Egypt receiving Rafael fighter jets more advanced than Israel’s current air fleet, the Israeli Air Force has been waiting with baited breath for the world’s most advanced fighter jet.

As Israel plans to take delivery of its first jet, nicknamed “Adir” or “mighty” in just under two weeks, the security cabinet unanimously decided to purchase an additional 17 F-35s, bringing the total number to 50 over the next few years, and giving the IAF two squadrons by 2022.

After the first two F-35 jets arrive, Israel will receive six to seven per year, until the first batch of 33 jets is delivered.

According to senior Israeli officers as well as senior US officials, the jet defined by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman as “the most advanced in the world and the best for safeguarding Israel’s aerial superiority” is able to evade enemy radar, while providing close air-support capabilities and a massive array of sensors, giving pilots an unparalleled access to information while in the air.

Air force officials state that with all the capabilities of the advanced jet, it can “protect itself, stay in the air for a long time, and has tremendous firepower which give it the ability to hit the most advanced ground missiles.”

According to a senior IAF officer who spoke to military correspondents, “if in a regular attack on targets we require an entire squadron of 25 planes in order to attack ground missiles protecting the target – while at the same time protect the other planes, refuel and perform the mission – with the new F35 we only need four or five planes to do the same job. If I take a stealth platform, maybe I won’t need a refueling [plane]. Maybe I won’t need an intelligence gathering plane.”

But the F-35, built by Lockheed Martin, is a controversial plane with a long series of failures and delays. The US air force announced in September that it was grounding the jet a mere two months after they were declared combat-ready, due to flaws in the plane’s coolant system. Eight of the planes grounded by the USAF belong to Israel.

According to Yiftah Shapir, senior research fellow and head of the Middle East Military Balance Project, the F35 was “the only option for Israel because it is the only aircraft that the United States is producing and will be producing for the next 20 years, and Israel cannot think of buying aircraft from other countries.”

The planes, which cost around $100 million each, are being purchased as part of the military aid agreement between the United States and Israel.

“There is no other combat aircraft to replace it, but whether it will be relevant to future Israeli combat missions is still unknown,” Shapir told the Post, adding that “the more you depend on information technology, the more vulnerable you are to cyber-attacks.”

The threat of cyber-attacks against the F-35 has been raised by several experts, including the Pentagon’s operational test chief who warned in a leaked December 11, 2015, report that the jet’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) “continues to struggle in development with... a complex architecture with likely [but largely untested] cyber deficiencies.”

Nonetheless, with modern warfare differing greatly from previous ones, there is no other choice.

According to a senior IAF officer who spoke to military correspondents, if one wants to compare the F35 to the civilian world, one only need look at cell phones.

The “new generation” of planes such as the F35 compared to F15 or F16 is like “comparing a smartphone to a Nokia cellphone from four or five years ago, it’s a totally different world.”

Israel has also expressed interest in the past in acquiring the F-35B, which has the capabilities for vertical takeoff and landings, an option which can allow the jet to land on much shorter runways if the IAF’s bases are attacked by Iranian jets or missiles from Hezbollah.

But according to the senior air force officer, the disadvantages of the plane are greater than the advantages.

Israel remains keen on maintaining its qualitative edge and increasing the IDF’s offensive capabilities, and the Air Force is currently examining the option of buying advanced versions of the F-15 to replace the older fighters currently being used instead of buying more F-35s.

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