F-35I Adir jets vital in Israeli response to Iranian threats

On April 13th, as a countermeasure against Iranian missile and drone attacks, the Israeli Defense Forces extensively used both aircraft and land-based air defense resources to fend off inbound threats. 

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

This offensive, labeled as Operation True Promise by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, comprised over a hundred single-use ‘kamikaze’ drones and a squadron of cruise missiles. This retaliatory act was a result of an Israeli airstrike in Syria on April 1st, targeting an Iranian diplomatic structure.

The strike resulted in the death of Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi from the highly respected Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, along with ten other Iranians. This count included long-serving diplomats and General Zahedi’s deputy, General Haji Rahimi. 

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

While Iranian outlets have claimed that their attacks have inflicted significant damage to Israeli military infrastructure, reports from Israel and Western sources suggest that the actual damage was almost negligible.

Following the recent Iranian strikes, the Israeli Defense Forces unveiled footage that spotlighted their air force’s crown jewel — the fifth-generation F-35 fighters — returning from a successful interception mission against enemy targets. 

These sophisticated aircraft didn’t limit their involvement to defense exclusively. They took the offensive, striking military outposts of the Iranian-affiliated paramilitary group, Hezbollah, in Southern Lebanon. With the capability to counter drones and cruise missiles, the F-35s have showcased their superiority. The highlight of this was the footage released on November 2, clearly documenting an interception they carried out against a missile launched by Yemen’s Ansarullah Coalition at Israeli targets.

Home to only two F-35 squadrons, the Israeli Air Force stands alone as the only military force worldwide to have deployed these stealth fighters in operations more complex than merely bombing unprotected ground targets, often venturing into aerial combat. 

In an incident that unfolded in 2021, one of these stealth aircraft was tasked with the interception and destruction of a drone, allegedly of Iranian origin, that was ferrying supplies to the Gaza Strip.

Observers anticipate the F-35 increasing its foothold in the sphere of missile defense, serving a multi-functional role as an aerial sensor to guide ground-based air defense systems while also being equipped with anti-ballistic missiles for a much broader spectrum of target engagement. 

Despite the F-35 grappling with nearly 800 operational glitches, widely publicized issues resulted in the occasional grounding of units—a situation witnessed in Israel back in December 2022. The aircraft has yet to refine many of its high-intensity combat capabilities, such as longer-range combat. Engagements often involve the usage of visual range AIM-9 missiles.

Interestingly, while the F-35 exhibits one of the lowest availability rates within the U.S. Air Force fleet—despite being one of the country’s newest aircraft—the Israeli F-35 fleet has managed to sustain remarkably high combat readiness rates. The global prioritization of spare parts for Israel’s needs, undertaken since the advent of overt hostilities with Palestinian militia groups in October 2023, has played a significant role in this scenario. 

In early July of that year, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced plans to expand its F-35 fleet. They proposed a blueprint for a $3 billion contract set to encompass 25 airframes. However, an imposing burden on the nation’s defense budget looms on the horizon. This is attributed not only to the economic downturn triggered by half a year of warfare but also to the latest strike from Iran. 

South Korean F-35A
Photo credit: USAF

As Israeli insiders confirm, just a few hours of intense air defense efforts can amount to a staggering cost of $1.33 billion. A bill of similar size was assumed by the United States in their prolific support of Israel’s defensive strategies. As a result, the expenditure on strike interception effortlessly surpassed the investment that Iran made to initiate their strikes and came distressingly close to the total cost of the forthcoming F-35 agreement.

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