F-35I Adir aircraft of the Israeli Air Force have taken part in exercise Red Flag 23-2.
Seven F-35I Adir aircraft, belonging to the 140th Golden Eagles (901, 911, 913, 926 and 927) and from the 116th Lions of the South (905 and 928) of the Israeli Air Force took part in the latest iteration of Red Flag exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. From Mar. 12 to Mar. 24, 2023, the Israeli 5th generation jets integrated with U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps aircraft of all types, conducting “a wide-range of training drills, including long-range aerial scenarios, achieving aerial superiority in the region, joint aerial strikes, area defense, interception of enemy aircraft, low-altitude flights and flights in areas abundant with anti-aircraft equipment”.
The IAF F-35Is were supported by three KC-707 Re’em of the 120 Squadron “Desert Giants”. Interestingly, according to the Israeli Defense Forces website, the exercise also included joint AAR (Air to Air Refueling) activities, where IAF tankers refueled America aircraft, and an IAF F-35I “Adir” aircraft would be be refueled by U.S. KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft.
“The Israeli F-35 participation in Red Flag 23-2 is another step forward for America and its allies in the transition to the next level of air warfare,” said Col. Jared Hutchinson, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander in a public release. “It’s a rare opportunity for warfighters from both countries to integrate our most advanced capabilities. As the Fifth-Generation Center of Excellence, Nellis AFB is uniquely capable of hosting allied F-35 units on the ground and challenging them in the air.”
The exercise took place few weeks after the Juniper Oak 23 exercise, the largest ever joint Israeli-US exercise to be conducted with U.S. CENTCOM, and was probably an even more realistic testbed for some of the peculiar sensors carried by the heavily modified Israeli F-35. In fact, while externally identical to the baseline F-35A, the F-35I embeds several “domestic” modifications that make the “Adir (“Mighty One”) a different variant from the “standard” F-35s: it features national EW (Electronic Warfare) sensors, weaponry, C4 systems etc. Some of the aircraft’s parts are made by Israeli companies, including Israel Aerospace Industries that produces the F-35’s outer wings and Elbit Systems-Cyclone, that makes center fuselage composite components. The Israeli F-35s helmet-mounted displays systems are also manufactured in Israel. Still, it’s worth highlighting that out of the 50 F-35s ordered by Israel, it was reported that the first 19 aircraft were to be delivered as standard F-35As with the remaining 31 to be fully equipped F-35Is. Still, all the IAF F-35 are unofficially referred to as F-35I Adirs.
The F-35I that took part in Red Flag are currently returning to their homebase at Nevatim AB once again supported by the three KC-707s: 707-3P1C Re’em (275), 707-366C (295), 707-3W6C Re’em (290). On Mar. 29, 2023 five of the seven Adirs (901, 911, 926, 927 and 928) made a stopover in Moron AB, Spain (the other two did not cross the Pond alongside the others and remained in Bangor), where our contributor David Parody took the photographs you can find in this post.
The F-35I departed Moron for Israel on Mar. 30, 2023.
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.