Israeli F-35 downed Iranian drones on their way to Gaza last year

Mission is the first known interception of UAVs by the fifth-generation F-35 in the world. Israel was one of the first countries to use advanced US fighter jet in combat.

An Israeli Air Force F-35 flies during an aerial demonstration at a graduation ceremony for Israeli air force pilots at the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel, June 27, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
An Israeli Air Force F-35 flies during an aerial demonstration at a graduation ceremony for Israeli air force pilots at the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel, June 27, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

An Israeli Air Force F-35 intercepted two Iranian drones enroute to the Gaza Strip last year with a cargo of pistols, the IDF revealed on Sunday night. Defense officials publicized the interception of Iranian drones in the shadows of talks in Vienna.

The interception took place last year and was the first known interception by the fifth-generation F-35 in the world. Israel was one of the first countries to receive the advanced US fighter jet and use it in combat operations. 

Following the publication of the interception, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that "we must reiterate the warning that Iranian aggression, whether it emanates from Iranian territory or through Iranian proxies - is a threat to global peace and to regional stability, as well as a threat to the State of Israel.”

The interception occurred in March 2021. Two months later, Israel launched "Operation Guardian of the Walls" against Hamas terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

It is estimated that use of the drones was an attempt by Iran to determine whether it was possible to "open an axis" of supplying weapons to Gaza using unmanned vehicles.

A satellite image shows the damaged Mercer Street Tanker moored off the coast of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, August 4, 2021. (credit: MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)A satellite image shows the damaged Mercer Street Tanker moored off the coast of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, August 4, 2021. (credit: MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

The interception was coordinated with Israel's neighbors, thereby preventing infiltration into Israel. 

The UAVs were tracked by Israeli intelligence agencies throughout their flight.

Gantz emphasized that the two drones downed last year was not the first time that Iran used drones against Israeli assets. In July, Iranian UAVs attacked a ship managed by an Israeli-owned company, the Mercer Street, killing two.

“In 2018 I exposed that launched a UAV laden with TNT explosives from Syria, in what appeared to be an attempt to transfer ammunition to terror groups in Judea and Samaria” Gantz added.