F-35I Adir: Israel Has A 'Custom' F-35 No Nation Can Match

F-35I Adir
March 28, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Middle East Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: F-35I AdirF-35IF-35MilitaryIsraelDefenseIranStealth

F-35I Adir: Israel Has A 'Custom' F-35 No Nation Can Match

Israel's F-35I Adir, a variant of the American-made Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, stands as a pivotal asset in the nation's defense arsenal.


Summary: Israel's F-35I Adir, a variant of the American-made Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, stands as a pivotal asset in the nation's defense arsenal. Tailored specifically to meet Israel's unique security requirements, the Adir incorporates advanced electronic warfare systems, domestically produced countermeasures, sensors, and data processing capabilities. Its deployment signifies a significant enhancement in Israel's ability to conduct surveillance, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and intelligence operations. Since its combat debut in 2018, the F-35I Adir has proven instrumental in countering threats from regional adversaries, complementing the Iron Dome system by engaging airborne threats directly. The F-35I Adir ensures Israel's aerial superiority remains uncontested, playing a crucial role in the nation's defense strategy.

Israel's F-35I Adir: The Ultimate Guardian of the Skies

While the Israel-Hamas war has become less prevalent in the news cycle, combat continues. Earlier this month, an Israeli fighter jet took out a “suspicious aerial threat” that appeared to drone over Israeli territory. The Israel Defense Forces said the UAV likely infiltrated Israeli airspace via Syria. 


Since the October 7 massacre, Hamas and Hezbollah have launched frequent barrages. Israel’s sophisticated Iron Dome air defense system intercepts the vast majority of projectiles fired at Israel, but in some instances, fighter jets are deployed instead. This is when the Israeli Air Force’s fleet of F-35I Adir jets show their value as Israel’s most critical aerial asset.

Introducing the F-35 Adir

The American-made Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is the most highly regarded fighter jet in the world. As a product of the Joint Strike Fighter program, the F-35 combines the attributes of various aircraft programs from the 1980s and 1990s. The fifth-generation airframe was designed to perform an array of functions, from surveillance and reconnaissance to electronic warfare and intelligence. 

Israel’s Adir model may be even better than the original.

Israel in 2010 became the first nation outside of the Joint Strike Fighter’s nine-nation co-development group to procure the F-35. 

Lockheed Martin was hesitant to develop modified F-35 variants for other countries. Prior to the Adir, the only modifications permitted were for specialized British F-35s compatible with the European-made Meteor air-to-air missile, and for variants uniquely compatible with the Naval Strike Missile from Norwegian manufacturer Kongsberg. 

The Israeli version of the fighter was designed with the country’s distinct security needs in mind. Then-Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak insisted on Israeli industrial participation. Barak wanted to set up local firms to assemble the airframe and manufacture its components. 

Specs & Capabilities

The Adir “Mighty One” is fitted with a homegrown electronic warfare system (EWS). Domestically produced countermeasures and sensors are built into the Adir, as are helmet-mounted displays and other data gathering and processing capabilities. Pilots can use the platform’s sophisticated electronics suite to jam the guidance systems and electronics of enemy ground-fired anti-aircraft weapons.  

Operational History of F-35I Adir 

Israel’s top adversaries include regional proxy groups and non-state actors such as Hezbollah and Hamas that cannot match its aerial capabilities, so a tailored ESW system is essential for the IAF. These systems identify hostile or threatening frequencies, giving pilots the means to jam or disable adversarial communications or weapons guidance systems. The Adir’s robust EW apparatus has proven to be a huge asset for the Jewish state.

In 2018, IAF commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin revealed that the IAF became the first service to deploy the F-35 in combat. As reported by the IDF, when Iran launched 32 rockets into Israel, the IAF responded with its Adir fleet, which destroyed anti-aircraft systems and other targets. 

In 2021, Israel said its fleet of Adir jets had participated in their first aerial engagements close to the border. The IAF released footage of an incident in which an Iran-launched UAV is engaged by an Adir fighter. For the first time, an F-35 was confirmed as destroying an airborne threat. 

Since October 7, Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system has been recognized as the true MVP of the Jewish state’s defensive efforts. While the Dome has a 96% success rate intercepting enemy-launched projectiles, it does not work alone to safeguard Israel. The F-35I Adir will remain the mainstay of the IAF for decades to come.

About the Author: Maya Carlin 

Maya Carlin, National Security Writer with The National Interest, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin. Email the author: [email protected].

Image: Creative Commons.