F-35I Adir Stealth Fighter: Most Dangerous Warplane on Earth?

January 13, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Middle East Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: IsraelMilitaryF-35IF-35I AdirStealthLockheed MartinF-35

F-35I Adir Stealth Fighter: Most Dangerous Warplane on Earth?

Since the Israeli-Hamas war commenced, the IAF has frequently used the F-35I to achieve its mission sets in Gaza. In November, Israel acknowledged that these jets were used to intercept and down a cruise missile.

F-35I Adir Is Israel's Ultimate Weapon in the Sky: Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas is providing the U.S. military with crucial information involving the F-35 fighter in combat.

Israel’s Defense Force (IDF) have launched numerous airstrikes targeting the Gaza-based terror group Hamas in the enclave following the October 7 massacre.

While the Pentagon has grown concerned with sustaining its F-35 Joint Strike Fighters through the “just in time” logistics model, Israel is demonstrating that this doesn’t have to be the case.

Israel’s Air Force has avoided problems by the U.S. military by creating its sustainment systems. As stated before a House Armed Services Committee subcommittee by Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt, the IAF’s F-35I Adir variant’s performance has been “absolutely outstanding.” Schmidt also added that “Their (Israel’s) mission-capable rates are high. Their full mission capable rates are high.”

How did Israel acquire the F-35I Adir?

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightening II is widely considered to be the most sophisticated fighter to fly the skies.

The fifth-generation airframe was designed to perform a litany of functions, including electronic warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

As the product of the Joint Strike Fighter program, the F-35 is a combination of various aircraft programs from the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Early on, international partners joined the JSF program, beginning with the United Kingdom and eventually including Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, Canada, Norway, Australia and Turkey (which was later removed).

Notably, Israel became the first foreign client to procure the Lightning II outside of the nine-nation co-development group through the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales process. The Jewish state was able to purchase a uniquely modified variant of the F-35 with a Letter of Agreement.

Its “Adir” aircraft have the capabilities and features to support the country’s security needs. This arrangement was significant since the Pentagon usually does not permit even the slightest alterations to be made to F-35 export batches. The exceptions to this rule are limited, including specialized British F-35s compatible with the European-made Meteor air-to-air missile. Fighters provided to Norway, Australia (and potentially South Korea and Japan) will also be uniquely compatible with the Naval Strike Missile from Norwegian manufacturer Kongsberg.

F-35I Adir Specs & Capabilities

The main changes incorporated in the F-35I Adir variant include an IAF helmet-mounted displays, datalink functionality that suits Israel’s needs and extra enhancements made to the fighter’s already sophisticated data gathering and processing capabilities.

The “Mighty One’s” homegrown electronic warfare system (ESW) ensures that this jet will maintain an edge over enemy counterparts. Since the Jewish State’s primary adversaries include regional proxy groups that do not match its aerial capabilities- including the Gaza-based Hamas terrorists and Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorists- a tailored ESW system is critical for the IDF.

F-35I Adir

As detailed by defense expert Kris Osborn, “Cutting-edge EW systems are able to discern and “deconflict” the spectrum to identify hostile or threatening frequencies and RF signatures to establish a “line of bearing” and succeed in jamming or disabling enemy communications or weapons guidance systems. Developers say the system introduces 360-degree detection, greater ranges and signal fidelity, and advanced countermeasures.”

F-35I Adir

In other words, the IAF can jam the guidance systems of enemy-launched anti-aircraft weapons.

The Adir’s combat history

Israel’s unique relationship with the F-35 platform extends to its operational history. Back in 2018, the former Chief of Israel’s Air Force Major-General Amikam Norkin revealed that his pilots had become the first ever to use the F-35 platform in combat. According to the Air Force Chief, the Jewish state had carried out various strikes in Syria targeting Iranian assets in addition to Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

F-35I Adir

In 2022, Israeli officials also confirmed that its fleet of Adir fighters had participated in their first aerial engagement close to its border one year prior. The IDF actually published footage depicting an Iranian-launched unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) being targeted by an Adir, which marked the first time any F-35 across the globe had been documented as having destroyed airborne threats. The IDF said that the drones were taken out far beyond the country’s airspace. As detailed in the Jerusalem Post, two Shahed 197 drones were destroyed in the early morning hours. While the IDF did not disclose exactly where the UAVs were taken out, the ability of its Adir fighter fleet to perform longer-range missions became evident.

F-35I Adir

Since the Israeli-Hamas war commenced on October 7, the IAF has frequently used the F-35I to achieve its mission sets in Gaza. In November, Israel acknowledged that these jets were used to intercept and down a cruise missile. This also marked the first time an F-35 had been used to bring down a target of this kind.

As the war progresses, Israel’s Mighty One - the F-35I Adir - will undoubtedly continue to dominate the skies.

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]