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Photos show Israel's F-35I Adir stealth fighter jets used to defend against Iranian missiles

Photos show Israel's F-35I Adir stealth fighter jets used to defend against Iranian missiles
LifeThelife1 min read
A F-35I fighter jet flies during a graduation ceremony for Israeli Air Force pilots in southern Israel.Amir Cohen/Reuters
  • Iran appeared to target Israel's Nevatim Airbase with over 350 drones and missiles on Sunday.
  • Nevatim houses Israel's F-35I "Adir" stealth fighter jets produced by US company Lockheed-Martin.

Early Sunday morning, Iran fired hundreds of drones, missiles, and rockets at Israel in a retaliatory attack following Israel's strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria.

With military assistance from allies including the US, the UK, Jordan, and France, Israel successfully intercepted around 99% of the incoming projectiles, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The missiles appeared to target Israel's Nevatim Airbase in the Negev desert, which houses its fleet of F-35I stealth fighter jets. The Israeli variant of the US-made Lockheed Martin Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter plane is known as "Adir," meaning "Mighty One" in Hebrew.

Here's a look at the powerful military aircraft.

F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jets produced by Lockheed Martin are some of the most advanced military aircraft in the world.

F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jets produced by Lockheed Martin are some of the most advanced military aircraft in the world.
An Israeli F-35I lands at Ovda airbase near Eilat, southern Israel.      Tsafrir Abayov/AP

The F-35 stores its weapons and fuel internally, and its aligned edges and radar-absorbent coating also help the aircraft evade detection. The planes cost $44,000 per hour to fly, The National Interest reported in January.

They feature advanced stealth and information-processing capabilities and can reach supersonic speeds of Mach 1.6, or 548.8 meters per second.

They feature advanced stealth and information-processing capabilities and can reach supersonic speeds of Mach 1.6, or 548.8 meters per second.
An Israeli Air Force F-35I Adir fighter aircraft flies over the Negev Desert.      YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn A. Hewson said in 2018 that the planes "can fly in what we call 'beast mode,' carrying up to 18,000 pounds of internal and external ordnance, in a mix that can include 5,000-pound-class weapons."

In 2016, Israel became the first country other than the US to acquire F-35 fighter jets.

In 2016, Israel became the first country other than the US to acquire F-35 fighter jets.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands next to a F-35 fighter jet just after it landed in Israel at Nevatim air base.      Amir Cohen/Reuters

Israel was the first country to select the model through the US Foreign Military Sales process and bought 50 planes, according to Lockheed Martin.

Israel has made significant modifications to the jets.

Israel has made significant modifications to the jets.
A production line for F-35 wings in Israel Aerospace Industries' (IAI) campus near Tel Aviv.      Amir Cohen/Reuters

Israel manufactures its own wings and electronic warfare system for the F-35I. It also developed its own version of the high-tech helmet that displays the plane's airspeed, altitude, targeting information, and other crucial stats directly on the pilot's visor.

The Israeli Air Force named its F-35I variant "Adir," meaning "Mighty One" in Hebrew.

The Israeli Air Force named its F-35I variant "Adir," meaning "Mighty One" in Hebrew.
Israeli Air Force technicians customize an F-35I plane with a Star of David symbol.      Israeli Air Force

The Israeli Air Force also added a six-pointed Star of David to the design, a Jewish symbol that also appears on the Israeli flag.

In 2018, Israel became the first country to use the F-35I in combat, its air force chief said.

In 2018, Israel became the first country to use the F-35I in combat, its air force chief said.
Israeli Air Force F-35 flies during an aerial demonstration.      Amir Cohen/Reuters

"We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East and have already attacked twice on two different fronts," then-Israeli Air Force chief Major-General Amikam Norkin said in a speech at a gathering of foreign air force leaders, Reuters reported.

In July 2023, Israel acquired an additional 25 Adir planes in a $3 billion deal.

In July 2023, Israel acquired an additional 25 Adir planes in a $3 billion deal.
Israeli F-35I planes.      Israeli Air Force

The deal was financed through the military aid Israel receives from the US, Reuters reported.

In November 2023, Israel's F-35I Adir fighter jets took down a missile fired by an Iran-backed group in Yemen, according to the IDF.

In November 2023, Israel
A F-35I fighter jet flies during a graduation ceremony for Israeli Air Force pilots in southern Israel.      Amir Cohen/Reuters

It was the first known intercept of a cruise missile by an F-35 plane.

The Israeli Air Force released footage of the encounter on X, writing in Hebrew that its personnel are "preoccupied at every moment with planning and managing the defense response and are prepared for any threat in any area."

Iran appeared to target the Nevatim air base, which houses Israel's fleet of F-35I jets, during an unprecedented attack on Sunday morning.

Iran appeared to target the Nevatim air base, which houses Israel
An Israeli F-35 combat aircraft is seen in the skies over Israel's border with Lebanon.      Ammar Awad/Reuters

Out of the over 350 ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles, launched at Israel by Iran and its proxies in Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon, around 99% were intercepted by Israel and its allies. The IDF released photos showing minor damage near a runway at the Nevatim Airbase and to a road in Hermon caused by the few projectiles that landed.

The Nevatim base remained operational throughout the attack, according to the IDF, with the Adir fighter jets aiding the defensive mission.

"Iran thought it would be able to paralyze the base and thus damage our air capabilities, but it failed," IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in a statement.

The ongoing war in Gaza has prompted new scrutiny of US military aid to Israel.

The ongoing war in Gaza has prompted new scrutiny of US military aid to Israel.
An Israeli soldier sits inside an F-35I fighter jet after it landed in Israel at Nevatim Airbase.      Amir Cohen/Reuters

The October 7 terrorist attacks carried out by Hamas killed around 1,200 Israelis and captured over 240. Around 129 hostages remain in Gaza, though it is unknown how many are still alive.

Israel's counteroffensive airstrikes and military actions in Gaza have resulted in over 33,000 Palestinian fatalities, including around 14,500 children, according to figures provided to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs by the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza. The IDF reports that 13,000 of these fatalities were Hamas militants.

According to the UNRWA, over 1.7 million Gazans have been displaced and 1.1 million are at risk of "catastrophic levels of food insecurity."

The devastating human toll of the war in Gaza with US-funded planes like the F-35I has prompted new scrutiny of US aid to Israel, with some lawmakers in Congress raising the possibility of conditioning military and economic aid.

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