Israel's F-35I Adir

Recently, Israeli media reported on the F-35I Adir’s extended ability to hit targets inside Iran without the need for aerial refueling, a significant advantage considering the nearly 1,000-mile distance separating Israel from the Islamic Republic of Iran. The United States Department of Defense has imposed restrictions on Israeli Air Force airmen with dual nationality, prohibiting them from operating Israel’s F-35I Adir fighters.

This measure, based on concerns about information security and possible technological leaks, is adopted as a safeguard against potential espionage activities. As reported by the Jerusalem Post, Israel has complied with the US directive, ceasing to assign pilots to these advanced fifth-generation aircraft.

The US defense maintains a protective stance towards its premium stealth aircraft, having previously limited similar acquisitions by other nations. In 2019, Turkey was excluded from the F-35 program following its acquisition of Russian S-400 missiles, a decision reflecting geopolitical tensions.

Similarly, negotiations between the United States and the United Arab Emirates regarding the delivery of F-35s were paused in 2021, partially due to Abu Dhabi’s intensifying relationship with the People’s Republic of China.

Strategic adjustments to US airframe safety policies

Israel's F-35I Adir

The collaboration between Israel and the United States on the F-35 Adir continues despite challenges. Israel was the first country outside of the group developing the Lightning II to acquire this advanced fighter in 2010.

In 2016, the Israeli Air Force received its first group of F-35s. These planes were customized with specific upgrades, which had previously only been allowed on fourth-generation fighters made by other defense companies. These upgrades helped the Israeli F-35 to be more effective in unique missions. It made Israel the first country to receive a special version of the fighter designed for its military needs.

Strategic impact and capabilities of Israel’s F-35I Adir in combat operations

F-35I Adir

Israel has increased its reliance on the F-35I Adir fighter jet since it was introduced. In 2018, the former head of the Israeli Air Force, Major General Amikam Norkin, announced that Israeli pilots were the first to use the F-35 in real combat. This was an important milestone in military history.

Norkin revealed that Israel had carried out several operations in Syria, targeting Iranian facilities and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon. In 2021, the Israel Defense Forces released a video showing an Israel’s F-35I Adir intercepting and destroying an Iranian drone. This was the first time an F-35 had downed an aerial threat.

Recently, Israeli media reported that the F-35I Adir could hit targets inside Iran without aerial refueling. This is a significant advantage since the distance between Israel and Iran is nearly 1,000 miles apart.

Strategic synergy in air exercises

This is how Israel thwarted Iran's missiles against an F-35i base

In February 2023, the air forces of the United States and Israel conducted a large-scale joint drill known as Juniper Oak 23.2. The drill involved the Israeli F-35 Adir 140 Squadron and six F-15 jets from the US Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT), demonstrating interoperability and strategic cooperation in combined operations spanning ground, air, sea, space and cyberspace.

General Michael Kurilla, the Commander of CENTCOM, emphasized the significance of the exercise as the largest joint Israeli-US drill to date conducted over the Mediterranean. Despite the new restrictions imposed by the United States Department of Defense on Israeli pilots with dual nationality, this deployment shows that military relations between Israel and the United States are not only continuing but also strengthening.

The protection of the advanced F-35 aircraft in the context of increasing global tensions highlights the strategic importance of maintaining strong alliances and continued cooperation between both nations.