F-35I Adir: The Stealth Fighter Only Israel Can Fly (Not America)

F-35I Adir

F-35I Adir: The Stealth Fighter Only Israel Can Fly (Not America)

Israel is set to receive 25 additional F-35I Adir aircraft, bolstering its capabilities amid escalating conflicts with Iranian-backed groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.


Summary and Key Points: Israel is set to receive 25 additional F-35I Adir aircraft, bolstering its capabilities amid escalating conflicts with Iranian-backed groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.

F-35I Adir


-These fifth-generation stealth fighters are crucial for Israel's defense and potential long-range strikes, including deep inside Iran.

-The acquisition underscores the importance of maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge (QME) in a region fraught with hostilities.

-The F-35I’s advanced technology provides Israel with significant tactical advantages, essential for countering threats and conducting precision strikes, especially as tensions with Iran and its proxies intensify.

F-35I Adir: Israel's Key to Countering Iranian Threats

The F-35I Adir is Israel's Ace-in-the-Hole for Striking Iran

It’s official. The Israel Air Force (IAF) is getting 25 additional F-35I warplanes that are to be delivered in batches of three-to-five per year until 2028, according to the Times of Israel. The deal, worth $3 billion, comes at a time of extreme peril—and controversy—for the tiny Jewish democracy. 

Since the October 7 attacks, Israel has been at war with the Iranian-backed terrorist group, Hamas. 

Multiple offensives into Gaza, where Hamas is based, has turned international opinion against Israel, as civilian casualties among the Palestinian Arab population of Gaza mount (Hamas hides its personnel and equipment among the civilians of Gaza). 

And the longer that Israel continues its offensives deep into Gaza, the more exposed their northern flank against the far more powerful Iranian-backed terrorist organization in neighboring Lebanon is. 

Israel Needs Force Multipliers

Israel undoubtedly has the most powerful indigenous military in the Mideast. Yet, its small geographical size means it has a relatively small population base. So, the very worst thing that could happen for Israel would be to find itself surrounded by multiple hostile powers that have numerical advantages. To offset these potential numerical advantages, Israel needs advanced technology. 

In this context, Israel has purchased a variant of the US military’s fifth-generation warplane, the F-35. Known as the “Adir,” which means “Mighty” in Hebrew and is derived from the Book of Psalms in the Holy Bible. The initial tranche of F-35I’s were purchased back in 2010 and delivered in 2016 to the Nevatim Air Base. 

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed that, “Our long arm has now become longer and mightier.” The inclusion of the F-35 in Israel’s arsenal gives them a decisive advantage, especially over enemies, such as those found in Syria, Lebanon, and much farther afield, in Iran.

Interestingly, the Israelis were most displeased with the fact that the United States authorized the sale of a tranche of F-35s to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This is because Israeli leaders understandably feared that the sale could pose a “threat to Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME).” 

Essentially, the spread of F-35s to UAE might lessen Israel’s military heft in the region (degrading Israel’s technological superiority over their neighbors). Ultimately, the Israel government accepted the sale because, at the same time, the US government was helping Israel modernize its military, too.

The Importance of the F-35I Adir

The F-35I Adir is such an important piece of Israel’s advanced arsenal that the Iranian military targeted the Nevatim Air Base in their shocking missile attack against Israel in April of this year. 

Nevatim was targeted specifically because it was home to Israel’s F-35I fleet, as my colleague, Maya Carlin, elaborated in these pages at the time of those strikes. The missiles were deflected. But the fact that Iranian forces were targeting Nevatim indicates how important of an asset the F-35I is for Israel—and how much fear these systems instill in Israel’s regional rivals, such as Iran.

For its part, the F-35I was a critical component for Israel’s air defense the night of the Iranian missile attack. Multiple units were deployed as the missile fusillade approached Israel from Iranian territory. The F-35Is that were deployed successfully intercepted the missiles. 

F-35I Adir

And, for good measure, those F-35Is bombed a few Hezbollah targets next door in Lebanon. 

The additional F-35Is going to Israel is in keeping with Israel’s defense needs. Considering that the F-35I is being targeted by Iranian missile attacks, given that Hezbollah and Hamas, both groups that possess large (and growing) missile capabilities, Israel needs to ensure that they have backups to their existing fleet of Adirs. In the event their arsenal of F-35Is is damaged, another tranche of these birds from the United States would help prevent any loss in capabilities for the Israeli Air Force.

Of course, the real question is, will the presence of these planes be enough to stop the chaos currently encircling Israel? 

A Perfect Plane for Escalation

Israeli forces have understandably moved hard against Hamas after the terrorist attacks on October 7. Israel’s military has penetrated deep inside Palestinian Arab territories in Gaza, pushing as far south as the Philadelphi Corridor which borders Egypt. 

The only problem for Israel is that Hamas embeds itself among civilian populations. 

Very often, for Israeli forces to capture or kill Hamas fighters, they must do their utmost to avoid innocent civilians in Gaza, and, if lives are lost, Israel loses their standing in the court of international public opinion. When Israeli forces took the Philadelphi Corridor, they were fired upon by twitchy Egyptian border guards. Israeli forces returned fire, killing the Egyptian border guard in question. But this has complicated the already tense Israeli-Arab relations (a relationship the Israeli government desperately needs to maintain as it battles Iran for regional power). 

Meanwhile, sensing weakness, Hezbollah moves hard against Israel. It’s all part of Iran’s plan. And one of the only countermeasures against the all-out regional war that Iran seeks to wage upon Israel are the F-35Is that Israel has. 

Israel Can Use the F-35I to Strike Iran

Along with advanced interception capabilities and air-to-ground abilities, the F-35I provides Israel with long-range strike capabilities. In fact, the F-35I is one of only two warplanes in the IAF’s arsenal (the other being the F-15I Ra’am) that could reliably conduct a bombing mission against targets deep inside Iran. 

F-35I Adir

And that’s another important point here. 

Because the Israelis are not just going to sit back and watch as Hezbollah and Hamas move to encircle them. They understand all too well that Iran is the real culprit behind the violence in the region. Israel’s government just might decide to take matters into their own hands and directly strike Iranian targets inside of Iran. 

The F-35I Adir will allow them to do this. That’s why Israel wants the plane. And that’s why they understandably love it so much. 

About the Author

Brandon J. Weichert, a National Interest national security analyst, is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, the Asia Times, and The-Pipeline. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower, Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life, and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy. His next book, A Disaster of Our Own Making: How the West Lost Ukraine, is due October 22 from Encounter Books. Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.

All images are Creative Commons.