Israel, Italy begin joint F-35 drill

The Israeli Air Force believes that international exercises such as this one improves and strengthens the IAF's capabilities to deal with threats in real-time.

The Israeli Air Force works to fight new and developing threats across the region (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON UNIT)
The Israeli Air Force works to fight new and developing threats across the region
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON UNIT)

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has begun a joint aerial drill with the Italian Air Force dubbed “Lightning Shield.”

The week-long drill will see the participation of four Italian F-35 stealth fighter jets flying alongside several Israel F-35i Adir jets from the 116th Lions of the South Squadron and the 140th Golden Eagle Squadron from Nevatim Air Force Base.

“The exercise is a significant milestone in further establishing cooperation between the armies while strengthening the unique relationship between the countries,”

IDF statement

The 122nd Nachson Squadron, which flies the Gulfstream G-500 aircraft, will also take part in the exercise.

“The exercise is a significant milestone in further establishing cooperation between the armies while strengthening the unique relationship between the countries,” the IDF said in a statement, adding that “the exercise will contribute to improving the operational competence of the F-35i Adir array and expanding its capabilities to possible operational scenarios.”

The Israeli Air Force works to fight new and developing threats across the region (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)The Israeli Air Force works to fight new and developing threats across the region (credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

The IAF believes that international exercises such as this one improves and strengthens its capabilities to deal with threats in real-time.

Drills since 2020

Over the past two years, Israeli F-35s have taken part in several international drills focused on the stealth fighter.

In March 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic, IAF pilots flew F-35s alongside American ones in the Enduring Lightening training exercise.

The drill saw Israeli Adir F-35i aircraft from the IAF’s 140th and 122 Squadrons train alongside F-35s from the USAF’s 34th fighter squadron.

Pilots drilled on “a wide variety of operational theaters while strengthening the cooperation between the forces,” as well as facing various aerial and ground threats, the IAF said in a statement.

The following year in June, six F-35i Adir stealth fighter jets were deployed to Italy as part of the Falcon Strike 2021 multinational exercise.

Along with the F-35s from the 140th squadron, Israel sent F-16A/Bs from the 116th Squadron, G550s from the 122th Squadron and refuelers from the 120th squadron that will refuel American F-16s along with the Israeli F35s.

The exercise at Amendola Air Base in Italy was aimed at optimizing the integration between fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft as well as increasing the cooperation between forces who fly the F-35s to strengthen their interoperability during joint operations.

A month later, Israeli pilots took part in the international Tri-Lightning 2 exercise with F-35 aircraft from the IAF as well as the US Navy and British air forces.

The drill saw the pilots practice various aerial scenarios including dogfights and dealing with advanced surface-to-air missile systems, as well as attacking targets deep in enemy territory and combat scenarios over enemy countries.

As part of the exercise, Israeli fighter pilots also visited the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth to learn how to operate an F-35 squadron on an aircraft carrier.

The drill was designed to “strengthen strategic-regional cooperation as well as cooperation with the international F-35 community,” the IDF said at the time.