Fewer and fewer F-16 fighter jets will fly the colors of Israel

It is evident that Israel is on a trajectory towards a progressive augmentation in the deployment of the F-35, consequently diminishing the role of the F-16. As reported by Avions Legendaires in a recent article, Tel Aviv is expected to take delivery of additional F-35s from Washington come 2026. This development, the publication elucidates, signals the advent of Israel’s phased substitution of its “General Dynamics F-16C/D Fighting Falcons, a mainstay of its air force, Heyl Ha’Avir.”

Israeli F-16I Sufa fighter jet
Photo credit: IAF

The acquisition of 25 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, with an approximate cost of 3 billion dollars, marks a significant development in military aviation. This procurement, funded by US military aid, underscores the strategic partnership between the two nations. 

These state-of-the-art aircraft will bolster Israel’s third squadron, where their presence signifies a profound assertion of aerial dominance. The F-35, colloquially referred to as the ‘Adir’, stands as a testament to the cutting-edge technology and superior performance inherent in modern warfare. 

With this new addition, Israel’s fleet will comprise 75 F-35s, a formidable force in any global context. As of 2018, 36 of these advanced fighters were already operational, evidencing Israel’s commitment to maintaining a robust and technologically advanced air force.

In an authoritative move backed by top military officials, Israel’s Defense Minister, Yoav Galant, formalized the acquisition in July. The decision was taken post the judicious counsel of IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi, Israeli Defense Ministry Director General Maj. Gen. [res.] Eyal Zamir, and Israeli Air Force Commander Gen. -Major Tomer Barr, underscoring the strategic importance of this acquisition.

Traditionally, Israeli F-35s are excellent

Within the scope of the F-35 program, Israel distinguishes itself as the singular nation that operates its unique variant, the F-35I Adir. This state-of-the-art aircraft is meticulously engineered with components specifically tailored to counter potential threats emanating from Iran. It incorporates a blend of proprietary technology and innovative solutions, all of which are safeguarded under the auspices of the Israel Defense Forces.

F-35I Adir is a 'monster', with its own frequency hopping EW system
Photo credit: IAF

Israel’s F-35 strategy hinges significantly on the bespoke electronic warfare system, designed to function effectively in the unique threat landscape that the Israeli Air Force could potentially confront. This distinctive environment encompasses regional adversaries such as Iran, as well as militant factions like Hamas and Hezbollah. These forces, while not necessarily representing conventional aerial threats to Israel through the deployment of aircraft, nonetheless constitute significant security challenges.

In the ever-fluctuating landscape of the Middle East, Israel’s F-35I squadron stands at the ready, primed to swiftly assert its supremacy in the air. Given the fact that none of Israel’s neighboring adversaries, Iran among them, presently operates aircraft of the 5th generation, the F-35I Adir finds itself in a position of unquestionable superiority.

It is now apropos to delve into the intriguing realm of frequency hopping – a technological marvel that is ingeniously designed to serve as an ‘anti-counter’ mechanism in Electronic Warfare [EW] systems. Imagine a scenario where an EW signal or a Radio Frequency (RF)-dependent weapon guidance system comes under attack or is jammed by hostile forces.

What transpires in the subsequent sequence of events? Here, the concept of frequency hopping emerges as a crucial player. It furnishes attacking EW systems with the capacity to persevere in their operations by ‘hopping’ to an alternate frequency to circumvent interference. This can be best described as a sophisticated game of leapfrog in the realm of high technology.

Given its perpetual state of vigilance, it is plausible to surmise that Israel possesses its own adaptations of this sophisticated Electronic Warfare [EW] technology. The nation has astutely modified this technology to counter the specific threats that are endemic to its regional context, including the formidable Iranian air defenses, or the electronic guidance systems embedded in the weaponry utilized by its regional opponents. Thus, an intricate and high-risk game of strategic evasion and detection, akin to a cat-and-mouse chase, unfolds ceaselessly in the vast expanse of the sky.

What will Israel do with the “retired” F-16s?

When the statement is made in contemporary discourse that a nation has decided to discontinue the use of F-16s, the intuitive conjecture that surfaces is the potential dispatch of these aircraft to Ukraine. Yet, this supposition, however logical it might seem, is, for the time being, virtually unfeasible. The underlying rationale is rooted in Israel’s policy of not supplying armaments for offensive operations against Russian forces.

Yankees land in Taiwan to upgrade local 140 F-16A/B fighters
Photo credit: Pixabay

While Moscow and Tel Aviv may not see eye-to-eye on the Ukrainian conflict, it is essential to recognize that Tel Aviv maintains substantial and strategically significant geopolitical connections with Moscow. These connections, in effect, shape and influence its military and diplomatic decisions, regardless of the prevailing global sentiments or assumptions.

Considering the strategic disposition of Israeli F-16s, it seems rational to explore alternative avenues for their deployment. Indeed, a myriad of opportunities exist, with the notable exception of delivering these aircraft to Ukraine. One such promising option could be their potential sale to a private military corporation.

There is indeed a potential scenario where the United States could significantly influence the situation. This could be achieved by the US supporting one of its private military corporations. These corporations have been predominantly employed in recent years for the purpose of training fighter pilots, as indicated by the data from official sources.

There exists a potential scenario wherein a nation, bereft of an expansive military budget, could reap substantial benefits from acquiring Israeli F-16s. Instances of similar transactions are not uncommon, with the most recent case involving the transfer of pre-owned Danish F-16s to Argentina. The certainty of such an eventuality remains indeterminable, though it is anticipated that clarity on the matter will be forthcoming shortly.

Another potential candidate for consideration is Taiwan. It is feasible for Tel Aviv to orchestrate a transaction via an intermediary, thereby circumventing a direct clash with China, to offload its F-16s to Taiwan. It is widely recognized that the Israeli F-16s boast superior equipment, often surpassing the technological capabilities of a significant proportion of F-16s available in the international arena, inclusive of those from the United States.

Israeli F-16s are considered superior to the rest

Israeli F-16s are considered better than the rest due to several key technologies and capabilities that set them apart. One of the main factors is the extensive modifications and upgrades made by Israel to the basic F-16 design. These enhancements have been tailored to meet Israel’s specific operational requirements and have significantly improved the aircraft’s performance and effectiveness.

In Norway, 12 deeply modernized combat-ready F-16s are aging
Photo by Eirik Helland Urke

One of the notable technologies that make Israeli F-16s stand out is the advanced avionics suite. Israel has integrated its own state-of-the-art avionics systems into the F-16, which provide enhanced situational awareness, advanced target acquisition capabilities, and improved communication systems. These avionics upgrades allow Israeli pilots to have a greater understanding of the battlefield and make more informed decisions during combat operations.

Another technology that contributes to the superiority of Israeli F-16s is the advanced electronic warfare [EW] systems. Israel has developed and integrated advanced EW systems into its F-16s, which provide the aircraft with superior electronic countermeasures capabilities.

Furthermore, Israeli F-16s are equipped with advanced weapon systems that give them a significant advantage in combat. Israel has developed and integrated its own precision-guided munitions, such as the Spice 2000 and the Popeye standoff missile, into the F-16.


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