Israeli F-35s don’t use ‘their stealth’ while bombing the Gaza Strip

The 5th generation Israeli F-35I Adir aircraft has been making its mark over the Gaza Strip, carrying out maneuvers akin to those performed by the 4th generation counterparts, namely the F-16I Sufa and F-15I Ra’am. Remarkably, these machines are employing even heavier bombs than those previously used. 

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

This revelation about the operational use of the F-35I surfaced during the inspection visit by Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of the General Staff, General Herzi Halevi, to the Nyotim Air Base. 

Amidst a flurry of media coverage, the event took on a propagandist tone. In his speech, General Halevi confidently claimed that “Israel’s F-35I fleet can reach any corner of the Middle East,” subtly highlighting the technological upper hand Israel holds over its regional counterparts.

Support for ground forces

The general acknowledged the multifaceted role of the Adir F-35s. Not only are they engaged in airstrikes over the Gaza Strip, but these high-tech machines also conduct missions supporting their own ground troops. These tasks are typically performed by fighter jets, helicopters, or sizeable unmanned aerial vehicles, but the versatility of these machines should not be underestimated. 

F-35Is effectively utilize nearly 1-ton GBU-31 JDAM-guided bombs to provide a robust support system for the ground troops. While lighter 110 kg bombs are sometimes employed, these are the exception rather than the rule.

New version of the 5th-generation F-35 stealth fighter arrives in Israel for testing
Photo credit: The Drive

F-35 “without stealth”

In instances where weaponry is deployed beneath the wings of technologically advanced aircraft, stealth takes a back seat. In the current scenario, the adversary, in this case, Hamas, has limited air defenses primarily made up of outdated versions of the Igla system, MANPADS systems, and rudimentary Iranian models. 

However, Adiras have the challenging task of delivering bombs with high precision, from a distance which could be as close as 200 meters from their own forces. This is despite safety regulations advising to maintain a minimum distance of 600 meters. 

The use of heavy bombs dropped from close range to maximize accuracy, underscores the aim to swiftly and efficiently neutralize Hamas resistance points. This approach also seeks to minimize the threat to their own forces on the ground.

Close combat

It’s hard to definitively determine whether the objective also includes minimizing civilian casualties. However, after directing the evacuation of the northern region of the Gaza Strip, Israel seems to presume the right to label everyone in the combat area as an adversary. The cause of civilians is further impeded by Hamas militants, who regularly engage in combat without uniforms, making it nearly impossible to tell them apart from civilians in the battleground. 

The nature of the battlefront today is shown as battles are now being fought at close quarters, characteristic of urban warfare. Presently, Israel reportedly has at least 39 of the 50 Adirs it ordered, splitting into two squadrons. Plans are underway to place another order soon, which will add up to a total of 25 for a new squadron.

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