Israel’s F-35I Adirs feature US-enhanced ‘Gaza tasks brains’

Israeli F-35s stand out from their American counterparts or any other aircraft of their kind globally. This distinction is not solely based on their weaponry but also on the speed at which these stealth fighters can be reconfigured for specific missions or during active conflict. 

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

This feature was evident when conflict erupted between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip on October 7. It was officially verified by the US that Jerusalem quickly procured mission data files [MDFs] for the F-35 mission in the region, on very short notice. These data files, colloquially referred to as “mission brains” or “task brains,” endow the Israeli F-35s with extensive threat information. 

The process of enhancing these files is still underway and doesn’t appear to stop at data files. Up to this point, the Pentagon has “declined to disclose to journalists the abilities that have been transferred to Israel over the past few months,” according to Defense News. The source cites Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt, the executive director of the F-35 program.

F-35 Lightning II fighter jet
Photo credit: Twitter

What are MDFs and how do they work?

MDFs are essentially a collection of electronic files that include various types of data, such as threat data, target information, and operational parameters. They are loaded onto the F-35’s onboard computer system to provide the pilot with real-time situational awareness and enable the aircraft to effectively engage in combat scenarios.

The primary function of mission data files is to enhance the F-35’s combat effectiveness by providing the pilot with accurate and up-to-date information about the operational environment. These files contain detailed intelligence on potential threats, including enemy radar systems, surface-to-air missile sites, and other hostile assets.

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

By analyzing this information, the F-35’s onboard computer system can generate optimized mission plans, allowing the aircraft to navigate through hostile areas while minimizing exposure to threats.

F-35 is more effective

Mission data files also play a critical role in the F-35’s ability to engage targets effectively. These files include target information, such as coordinates, characteristics, and vulnerabilities, which enable the aircraft’s sensors and weapons systems to accurately detect, track, and engage enemy targets.

Furthermore, mission data files are regularly updated and tailored to specific operational requirements. As new threats emerge or existing threats evolve, the files are continuously modified to ensure the F-35 remains equipped with the most relevant and accurate information. This dynamic nature of the MDFs allows the F-35 to adapt to changing operational environments and maintain its combat effectiveness.

Mass use of the F-35

Israel often maintains an air of secrecy around the effectiveness of its weapons systems during conflict. It is common for Israeli arms manufacturers to withhold the identities of countries purchasing their weaponry. However, our understanding can be broadened through information from the United States. 

Israel's F-35I Adirs feature US-enhanced 'Gaza tasks brains'
Photo credit: Defense Here

In one instance, according to the U.S., 35 of the 39 Israeli F-35s have participated in ongoing clashes with Hamas from October 7 to the present day. This demonstrates a high operational capability, indicating that Israel is heavily populating the airspace above Gaza with these elusive fighter jets. 

The U.S. has asserted that the performance of the dispatched F-35s has gone beyond its expectations, according to Pentagon acquisition chief, Bill LaPlante. The involvement of F-35s in such a contention is advantageous for the U.S. It allows for the collection of previously unavailable data, particularly regarding the combat efficiency of the aircraft.

F-35 over Gaza

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

While concrete details on Israel’s deployment of F-35s in combat are somewhat scant, there has been official confirmation from the Israel Defense Forces about the successful interception of a cruise missile by one of these advanced aircraft. 

A veteran F-35 pilot, who shared insights on the condition of anonymity with a Canadian media reporter, highlighted the complex factors that come into play when these sophisticated planes are utilized in challenging warfare situations. 

The former pilot of the F-35 explained, “These state-of-the-art fighters afford Israel the capability to pinpoint terrorist hubs while keeping inevitable damage to a minimum and ensuring civilian risk is mitigated. This carries tremendous significance, especially in densely populated areas like Gaza.” 

Norway: We don't have enough mechanics to support the 52 F-35s
Photo by Monica White Martinsen / NRK

He further elaborated, “The maintenance and operation of these top-tier stealth fighters require heavy resource allocation. The benefits these jets offer must be weighed up against the cost needed to keep them operational. An important consideration, most particularly during prolonged conflict situations.”

Support during battle

As pointed out by the ex-F-35 pilot, the continuity of high-performance operations with the F-35 heavily relies on robust logistical support. “A hiccup in supply chain or support competencies could impact the ongoing effectiveness of these resources.” 

Nevertheless, it appears that Israel is successfully navigating these adversities. Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt, the Executive Director of the F-35 program, emphasized the Israel Air Force’s [IAF] high level of satisfaction with the functioning of the support system. 

In his words, “There’s much we can absorb from their operations, particularly their quickness in turning aircraft around.” The reference to ‘turning aircraft around’ is a specific nod to their proficiency in recuperating, resetting planes, and launching new flights in a short period. 

This underscores the efficiency and skill of the Israeli Air Force in swiftly turning around aircraft to maintain a consistent operational capacity.

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