4 more F-35is to land in Israel this summer, including experimental model

Experimental F-35i to serve as a testbed for unique Israeli technology

The F-35I Adir on its first flight with the Israel Air Force in December 2016 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The F-35I Adir on its first flight with the Israel Air Force in December 2016
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
While Israel’s skies are still closed to commercial traffic, four F-35i Adir stealth fighter jets will land in Israel at the beginning of August, including Israeli Air Force’s experimental F-35i that will act as a testbed for the country’s planned modifications.
Another three F-35is will land in Israel in November, bringing the Israel Air Force’s total to 27 out of the 50 set to land in the coming years to make two full squadrons by 2024, the 140th “Golden Eagle” Squadron and the 116th “Lions of the South” Squadron, both based at Nevatim Air Base.
The experimental F-35i “is the only one in the world and unique for the IAF,” a source in the Air Force told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday, adding that Israel wanted this plane so that it could integrate and certify unique Israeli technology onto it.
While it will first be based at Nevatim, the experimental plane will later fly out of Tel Nof in central Israel.
Israel is the second country after the United States to have received the joint strike fighter and is the one air force in the Middle East to fly the state-of-the-art aircraft. It is also one of the few to be allowed to modify the advanced fighter.
The IAF was also the first to use the plane in a combat role, using the stealth fighter on operational missions on different fronts in the Middle East in 2018. Since then, the IAF is reported to have used the plane on multiple occasions, including during missions against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria.
“The IAF knows how to use the planes unlike any other air force,” the source said.
Built by Lockheed Martin, the jets have an extremely low radar signature allowing the jet to operate undetected deep inside enemy territory as well as evade advanced missile defense systems. The jet can fly as fast as Mach 1.6, as high as 50,000 feet, has a range of 1,200 miles and can stay in the air for 3.5 hours before needing to refuel.
With close air-support capabilities, a massive array of sensors and the most advanced electronic warfare capabilities ever put on an aircraft, pilots of the stealth jet have unparalleled access to information while in the air.
According to officials at Lockheed Martin, the jet, which carries the AN/APG-81 AESA radar, is capable of identifying and intercepting airborne threats flying at a low altitude and at high speeds like cruise missiles.
In March, despite the cancellation of all international joint exercises because of the continued spread of the deadly coronavirus across the globe, IAF F-35is trained alongside American F-35s in the Enduring Lightening training exercise.
The drill had pilots drill on “a wide variety of operational theaters while strengthening the cooperation between the forces,” as well as face various aerial and ground threats the IAF said in a statement at the time.
With a need to keep ahead of regional changes and increased threats in the Middle East, the IAF is expected to soon place orders on several new aircraft to upgrade its aging squadrons.
According to sources, the IAF is pushing for a force mix of more F-35s as well as Boeing’s latest F-15Is which would allow the IAF to carry out a number of complex operations, including any possible confrontation with Iran.