Every day, Israel puts between 35 and 39 F-35Is into the air

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Emerging data reveals a fascinating trend in the operation of the Israeli Air Force’s expansive F-35 fighter jet fleet. The fleet has been stepping up its game, operating at five times its usual rate from October 7 onwards. This is according to General Donald Carpenter, who is at the helm of logistics at the F-35 Joint Program Office [JPO]. He attributes this high operational level of Israel’s stealth aircraft activity to concerted international efforts. 

Photo credit: IAF

According to General Carpenter, the fleet of 39 F-35 Adir, an Israeli version of the F-35, has reached an impressive combat capability of 75 percent. Notably, the Mission Capability Index has surged to a staggering 85 percent. The past half-year has recorded a steep 565 percent increase in the monthly flying hours of these aircraft. 

Interestingly, at the commencement of the war, five of these Adir aircraft were deemed unfit for operation. However, thanks to the prompt action of Israel’s maintenance crew, four of them were promptly restored to full operational readiness. This event signified the start of a busy period on October 7, with 39 of the Adir aircraft embarking on their missions.

Photo credit: IAF

Short flights

The disclosed insights reveal that the Israeli Air Force, operating around the clock in three shifts per day, has received the green light from Lockheed Martin to carry out daily flights of between 35 to 39 Adir aircraft. This is indeed a significant achievement. 

Israel holds a distinct position within the global aircraft spare parts supply chain, conveniently accessing these components from friendly nations. As such, they are better equipped to maintain this intense flight frequency. However, according to General Carpenter, this heavy operational load could potentially lead to future maintenance setbacks. He underscores the importance of extrapolating lessons learned from Israel’s intensive stealth operations for potential utilization in the Indo-Pacific sector. 

Photo credit: USAF

Interestingly, the report identifies a stark contrast between these two operational scenarios. Israeli pilots typically undertake two to four short flights daily, with the major wear and tear influencing the aircraft’s brakes and tires. In comparison, operations in the Pacific region often entail lengthy distances, typically spanning 12 to 16 hours of flight, thus presenting a unique set of challenges.

Why is the F-35I Adir different?

Specialized systems, crafted locally in Israel, form a vital part of the F-35 Adir’s structure. These indigenous systems come into play right when the aircraft lands in Israel, introducing a unique aspect to the fighter jet. These locally-made systems include native weapons, state-of-the-art electronic warfare systems, and advanced communication systems, setting the F-35I apart from the regular F-35A. 

Photo credit: IAF

The command, control, communications, computer, and intelligence [C4I] systems, a brainchild of Elbit Systems—a well-known Israeli defense firm, hold a prominent place in this context. This system ensures a smooth alignment of the F-35I with Israel’s prevailing military framework, offering real-time data-sharing capabilities and elevating situational awareness. 

Another remarkable, locally crafted system that makes the F-35I stand out, it’s the helmet-mounted display system. This was formulated through a collaboration between Elbit Systems and Rockwell Collins. With critical flight details projected onto the pilot’s visor, it allows pilots to retain situational awareness without the need to glance at traditional instrument panels. The system offers a virtual 360-degree panoramic view of the aircraft’s surrounding environment. 

Moving on to the electronic warfare systems, are developed by ELTA Systems, a branch of Israel Aerospace Industries. Designed to detect, pursue, and deactivate enemy radar and electronics, these systems provide the F-35I with an upper hand in electronic warfare. 

Photo credit: USAF

Besides, the F-35I comes loaded with distinctive weapon systems, developed indigenously in Israel. Precision-guided munitions like the Spice 1000 bomb and Python-5 air-to-air missiles enhance the plane’s defense capabilities. Coupled with stealth features, these weapons boost the F-35I’s prowess for precision attacks. 

Finally, let’s not forget about the additional fuel tank that forms part of the F-35I’s design, amplifying its flight range and endurance. Israel Aerospace Industries must be credited for this fundamental modification, empowering the F-35I to take on extended missions that other F-35 variants couldn’t manage.


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