2nd Stealth Fighter To Be Shot Down? Hezbollah Warns Downing IAF Jets, Possibly F-35, Using Russian SAMs

As tensions boil in the Middle East and casualties continue to grow, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the war against Hamas despite global denunciation. Hezbollah, meanwhile, has threatened to shoot down Israeli fighter jets, possibly stealth F-35, using Russian missiles.

Stealth fighter jets like the F-35 are among the world’s most advanced and capable aircraft. Their ability to evade radar detection gives them a major advantage over conventional aircraft. However, some adversaries are actively working on ways to counter stealth technology.

Russia, Iran, and the Shiite militant group Hezbollah have reportedly set their sights on one major target – Israel’s formidable F-35 stealth fighter jets.

According to Kuwaiti media reports, Hezbollah plans to deploy new missiles supplied by Russia and modified by Iran aimed at Israeli jets. Hezbollah believes they can shock Israel and the world by shooting down an Israeli jet.

If speculative reports are to be believed, Hezbollah’s ideal target would be the F-35, a 5th-generation stealth fighter operational with the Israeli Air Force since December 2017. And Russian-supplied missiles have already shot a USAF stealth fighter way back in 1999.

Hezbollah Militant Group

Hezbollah is a Shia Muslim militant group and political party based in Lebanon, backed by Iran. It has cultivated significant power and has been described as “a state within a state.” Founded during Lebanon’s civil war, Hezbollah is driven by opposition to Israel and resistance against Western influence in the region.

Despite its political role in Lebanon, Hezbollah’s military wing is designated as a terrorist organization by many nations due to its history of armed resistance, hostage-taking, and attacks against Israeli and Western targets.

Hezbollah has made clear it does not intend to scale back its operations against Israel, especially in the north. The group plans to continue fighting for as long as the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza persists.

Reports indicate Hezbollah has been preparing for extended hostilities and devising new tactical surprises to employ against Israel’s forces.

Iran’s Strike Aimed At F-35

Stealth aircraft are seen as nearly invincible due to their reduced radar signatures and effective operation in hostile environments. Israel’s F-35I Adir jets have been particularly effective in countering regional adversaries like Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as defending against Iranian missiles.

In April 2024, Iran launched a major retaliatory attack on Israel involving around 350 ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and drones. While 99% of these threats were intercepted by Israeli and allied defenses, reports indicate the primary target appeared to be Nevatim Air Base in the Negev desert – home to Israel’s fleet of advanced F-35I Adir stealth fighter jets.

The Times of Israel reported that Iranian missiles and drones seemed focused on this “sensitive air base” housing Israel’s most advanced F-35 stealth aircraft. Despite the attack, Nevatim remained operational.

Iran Strikes Israel’s F-35 Air Base At Nevatim; Reports Say Main Runway, Storage Facility & Aircraft Damaged

Earlier, in November 2023, Israel’s F-35I Adir fighter jets successfully intercepted a missile fired by an Iran-backed group in Yemen, as confirmed by the IDF. This marked the first documented instance of an F-35 intercepting a cruise missile.

Though the vast majority of these threats were thwarted by Israel’s formidable defenses, the intent was clear: to shatter the aura of invulnerability surrounding these aerial behemoths.

But Iran isn’t the sole player in this pursuit. Hezbollah, the perennial adversary of Israel, has reportedly joined forces with Russia, aiming to bolster its weaponry with the very arms that once breached the cloak of stealth.

f-35 Adir
File Image: Israeli F-35

What Makes F-35 A High-Value Target?

The Israeli version of the US-manufactured Lockheed Martin Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is dubbed ‘Adir,’ which translates to ‘Mighty One’ in Hebrew.

Israel made history by being the first nation to opt for the F-35 through the United States government’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process, formalized with a Letter of Agreement signed in October 2010.

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) received its inaugural F-35 Adir on June 22, 2016. The entire fleet achieved operational readiness in December 2017, following an exhaustive integration and training regimen at Nevatim AFB, Israel.

Equipped with the powerful Pratt & Whitney F135 engine, the F-35 boasts supersonic capabilities with a top speed of Mach 1.6, ensuring its prowess as a long-range, supersonic fighter even when fully loaded.

Moreover, various F-35 variants are capable of carrying advanced munitions, such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) or the Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), significantly extending their operational reach, lethality, and survivability against heavily fortified strategic targets. This capability amplifies their effectiveness in deterring adversaries on par with or near to their military capabilities.

Russian Missile Have Shot-Down Stealth Fighter Before

Stealth fighters are marvels of aeronautical engineering, the epitome of invisibility, and have long been heralded as the pinnacle of air superiority. Their sleek forms are sculpted to evade even the most prying radar eyes.

Yet, as history has proven time and again, no fortress is truly impregnable.

In 1999, a Russian-origin Neva missile shot down a US stealth fighter, the F-117 Nighthawk, shocking the US military and government.

US Stealth Fighter ‘Seized’ By China After Russian Neva Missile Shot It Down: Meet USAF’s ‘Wicked Aircraft’

The F-117, representing decades of stealth research and development, was originally crafted as America’s premier asset against the Soviet Union. Despite its maiden flight in 1981, its existence remained classified until 1988.

On March 27, 1999, Yugoslavia’s army downed the F-117 Nighthawk, celebrated as the world’s first operational stealth aircraft, using a Yugoslav version of the Soviet Isayev S-125 ‘Neva’ or Pechora surface-to-air missile.

This event shattered the belief in the invincibility of stealth technology, marking the first-ever shootdown of a stealth aircraft. Fortunately, the pilot ejected safely and was rescued by a US Air Force search and rescue unit.

As per media accounts, Chinese agents promptly pursued and procured components of the downed aircraft from local farmers after the incident. It is speculated that China – renowned for its reverse engineering prowess – aimed to glean insights into stealth technologies through the acquisition and potential reverse engineering of these materials.

Subsequent to these developments, China devoted a decade to bolstering its stealth capabilities and conducting thorough investigations into laser-guided missiles. Some assertions propose that the technology integrated into China’s J-20 stealth fighter might have stemmed from knowledge acquired from the downed F-117 aircraft.

  • Shubhangi Palve is a defense and aerospace journalist. Before joining the EurAsian Times, she worked for ET Prime. In this capacity, she focused on covering defense strategies and the defense sector from a financial perspective. She offers over 15 years of extensive experience in the media industry, spanning print, electronic, and online domains.
  • Contact the author at shubhapalve (at) gmail (dot) com.