F-35 Pilot Speaks On Gaza War! Explains How Israeli ‘Adir’ Stealth Jets Have Proved ‘Very Effective’ Against Hamas

As Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip continues to wreak havoc, there are reports that the country has taken a massive leap in its quest to acquire the F-35 Lightning II fighter jets from the United States.

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In the upcoming weeks, an agreement between the Pentagon and aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin is anticipated to be reached over the purchase of Israel’s third F-35I fighter jet squadron.

According to reports, the additional F-35I is slated for delivery to the Israel Air Force (IAF) in the second half of the decade.

The recent development comes against the background of the Defense Ministry’s Director-General, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir speaking with influential members of the American defense sector as well as senior officials of the Department of Defense.

Zamir reportedly discussed Israel’s continuous armament and weapons procurement in light of the Gaza War and other potential military conflicts in the region. The multi-year strategy, which calls for acquiring cutting-edge platforms and capabilities to preserve the IDF’s superiority and readiness, was also discussed.

Israel already has two squadrons of the fifth-generation fighter jet. In July 2023, the country approved the purchase of a third squadron of F-35 stealth fighter jets in a deal worth $3 billion. The delivery of an additional 25 F-35I fighters will bring the number of these cutting-edge fighters in the IAF to 75.

Fighter jets from the IAF’s second F-35 squadron, the Lions of the South, fly over southern Israel in January 2020. (IDF spokesperson)

When the government approved the purchase last year, the Israeli Ministry of Defense (MoD) noted that it would be financed through the defense aid package that it receives from the United States.

Although the decision to purchase the F-35I Adir was taken several months ago, Tel Aviv is making efforts to expedite the purchase now as its military continues to pound the Gaza Strip, over 111 days since the war started in October. According to Hamas, the death toll in the narrow strip has crossed a whopping 25,000.

Besides the F-35, the country is also keen on acquiring a squadron of 25 F-15IA fighter jets, which is the Israeli variant of the advanced F-15EX, as well as a squadron of 12 Apache helicopters. A formal agreement is yet to be signed between the two sides.

The delivery schedule for the fighter jets and helicopters was not immediately specified, and in other similar agreements, it took many years for the first aircraft to be shipped. It’s anticipated that Israel will demand quicker delivery.

Israel previously agreed to purchase 50 F-35 combat fighters from Lockheed Martin. They are being supplied in batches of two and three until 2024.

F-35s Are Being Used In This Unending Conflict

Last month, the United States officially confirmed that Israel was extensively using its F-35I Adir stealth fighters in the ongoing military operations against Hamas and underscored the exceptional combat performance of these advanced aircraft.

Pentagon acquisition head Bill LaPlante admitted during a House Armed Services tactical air and ground forces subcommittee hearing that the US delivered F-35 mission data files—crucial to the aircraft’s operation—to Israel in a remarkably short amount of time. 

Known as the “brains” of the jet, these mission data files include a wealth of threat-related information. Furthermore, citing high mission capability rates in the Middle East, F-35 Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt commended Israel’s F-35 fleet for its exceptional performance in the war against Hamas during the hearing. 

Schmidt disclosed that in the wake of the war, more capabilities were quickly added to the F-35 aircraft. He emphasized that efforts were still being made to improve their efficiency. 

Additionally, LaPlante brought attention to a noteworthy rise in sustainment operations in Israel to maximize fleet readiness when it came to maintenance assistance. He said 35 of the 39 F-35As in the Israeli Air Force performed better in combat than expected.

Though little is known about Israel’s use of the F-35 in combat, the Israeli Defense Force has already verified that one of these aircraft successfully intercepted a cruise missile.

f-35 Adir
File Image: Israeli F-35

Speaking to EurAsian Times, an experienced former F-35 pilot, who chose to remain anonymous, shed light on the multifaceted considerations involved when these cutting-edge aircraft are actively deployed in demanding scenarios.

The former F-35 pilot noted, “These high-tech fighters let Israel zero in on terrorist spots, keeping the damage low and the civilian risk in check. It’s a big deal, especially in packed places like Gaza.”

“Running those top-tier stealth fighters diminishes the resources. You’ve got to balance the cost of keeping them up and running with the benefits they bring. It’s a big deal, especially when you’re in it for the long haul.”

The military also intends to modernize and expand its current F-15 aircraft, which is capable of transporting the heavy weaponry Israel would require to breach Iran’s nuclear installations, the majority of which are located underground.

Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt, the F-35 Program Executive Officer, emphasized that the Israeli Air Force (IAF) is extremely satisfied with the sustainment enterprise’s performance. He said, “I think we could learn a lot from them regarding the quickness with which they’re turning airplanes.” 

The phrase “turning airplanes” specifically refers to the effectiveness of landing, recovering, and resetting jets. This highlights how quickly the Israeli Air Force can turn around aircraft to maintain operational effectiveness.