On Jul. 9, 2019 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tehran that Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35I fighter jets can reach “anywhere in the Middle East,” following threats against his country in recent weeks by senior Iranian officials, The Times of Israel reports.
“Lately, Iran has been threatening Israel with destruction,” Netanyahu said, standing in front of an F-35 Adir jet during a visit to the Nevatim Air Base, where he had meetings with IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi and IAF Chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin. “It should remember that these planes can reach every place in the Middle East, including Iran, and of course also Syria.”
The F-35I can’t reach Iran unassisted, but it could conduct operations there with in-air refueling, a capability possessed by IAF.
Norkin said last year said Israel had used the fifth generation fighter jet in operations in the Middle East for the first time. Although at the time, Norkin did not revealed in which countries the aircraft had been used, rumours sparked that Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) commander Brigadier General Farzad Ismaili, who had been in office since 2010, has been fired by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after he kept secret that IAF F-35 stealth fighters had violated Iran’s airspace in March 2018.
Israel has long seen Iran as its greatest threat, while Iranian officials regularly threaten to destroy the Jewish state.
On Jul. 1, a senior Iranian lawmaker said Israel would be destroyed rapidly if the US attacked the Islamic Republic.
“If the US attacks us, only half an hour will remain of Israel’s lifespan,” said Mojtaba Zolnour, chairman of Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, in comments carried by the Mehr news agency.
Similarly, in a June 20 interview on Iraq’s Alnujaba TV, translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) monitoring group and posted to social media Sunday, former Iranian defense minister Gen. Hossein Dehghan said Iran’s military could destroy US military bases in the region and annihilate Israel.
“Our missiles can totally obliterate those bases,” Dehghan said. “Israel knows that Iran will erase its entity and uproot it from existence in case of a war.”
On Sunday, Netanyahu called an announcement by Iran that it would exceed the uranium enrichment cap set by the troubled accord a “very dangerous step.” He urged European countries to sanction Iran in response.
On Jul. 8, Iran breached the enrichment cap as it seeks to press other parties into keeping their side of the bargain under the nuclear deal.
Netanyahu opposed the accord and urged US President Donald Trump to withdraw from it, which he eventually did. Despite having opposed the deal, Netanyahu is now calling on European nations to enforce its parameters as he and the US seek to further pressure Iran.
Israel has also carried out hundreds of strikes in neighboring Syria against what it says are Iranian and Hezbollah military targets.
Israel has praised the Lockheed Martin F-35 as a “game-changer.”
All planes ordered by IAF belong to the F-35A variant named F-35I Adir (Mighty) in Israel and are operated by the IAF’s Golden Eagle Squadron, based at Nevatim.
This first appeared in Aviation Geek Club here.