The Buzz

5 Weapons That Make It Clear Israel Dominates the Sky

Time and again during its short existence, Israel has demonstrated that it has the most powerful military in the Middle East. Much of this has to do with the superior training and organization of its military and personnel. This was especially true in its very early years, when its military equipment was roughly equal to its much larger neighbors.

Still, for about the last half century, Israel has also enjoyed a qualitative military edge over the rest of the Middle East. Nowhere is the gap between Israel and its neighbors larger than in the air. As Chris Harmer, a naval analyst, has commented: “Pilot to pilot, airframe to airframe, the Israeli air force is the best in the world.” Israel’s air dominance goes beyond the Air Force, and also includes its air and missile defense systems as well as its missile capabilities.

These five weapons of war help Israel dominate the skies:

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter

The Middle East changed in December 2017, when Israel became the first country in the region to have a fifth-generation fighter jet. At that time, Jerusalem declared the first nine of its F-35I Adir aircraft operational. The stealthy modern jet allows Israel to stay one step ahead of its adversaries who continue to strengthen their air defenses.

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The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has called the F-35 a “game changer.” This is not merely because of its stealth features. It is also not because of its firepower. In fact, the F-35 cannot pack as much firepower as some of Israel’s other fighters, at least while also maintaining its stealth capability. What sets the F-35 apart is it can perform the functions of many different types of planes and act as a force multiplier for other weapon systems.

As one Israeli pilot explained to Israel Hayom: “Flying the Adir, we are able to see the Middle East in a way that previously required several different platforms—a UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] to take pictures, an aircraft with monitoring capabilities, a radar plane that can see. Now, just one or two Adir jets are needed. It changes the way we see the world.” He added: “The plane can act in all arenas simultaneously. It is groundbreaking.”

Other IAF sources have called the Joint Strike Fighter a “super intelligence collector.” The intelligence it collects while flying undetected can also be transmitted to other Israeli forces on the ground and in the air, enhancing these systems’ lethality. And, as Michael Peck has pointed out, Israel hasn’t engaged in large-scale air-to-air combat in decades (which is a mission the F-35 doesn’t excel in, although it is superior in this area to anything Israel’s neighbors are flying). Rather, the IAF’s main missions have been small precision raids, which suits the F-35’s stealth capability.

Israel has already agreed to purchase fifty F-35s that should be delivered by 2028. It is considering putting in an additional buy, but some in the IAF believe Israel should instead purchase more of the next weapon system on this list.

The F-15