F-35I: The Most Powerful Fighter on Earth (Not in the U.S. Air Force)?

Meet the F-35I Adir: The Israeli Air Force is reported to now operate at least 35 F-35I Adir variants of the F-35A multirole stealth fighter, a special aircraft modified by the Israelis with a distinct and separate jamming pod, EW weapons system, guided bombs, and air-to-air missiles

Unlike all of the other F-35 allied nations who now operate or are acquiring F-35As, Israel has made special efforts to engineer its own indigenously-produced weapons and technology into its F-35s.

Israel’s Adir, for example, flies with domestically-produced guided bombs and air-to-air missiles in the internal weapons bays, according to a report from Aviation Week, as far back as 2010. 

Special F-35 Variant

There are several possible reasons for this, as the U.S. and allied-produced F-35 is certainly engineered with a cutting-edge, capable suite of EW weaponry. Perhaps there are some proprietary Israeli-based EW technologies that inspired the Israeli Air Force to integrate its own system and weaponry.

A tailored EW system might make sense for Israel, given the nature of the threats it might be likely to face. For example, many of Israel’s regional threats such as Iran or militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah would of course not present an air threat to Israel in terms of aircraft.

An F-35-armed Israeli Air Force would not need to fight for air supremacy against regional threats, however, it would likely benefit greatly from advanced EW sufficient to jam the electronics and guidance systems of any ground-fired anti-aircraft weapons.

F-35I Adir vs. Regional Threats

Iran, for example, claims to have the ability to intercept, jam, or take down drones with an EW system and shot down a U.S. Navy BAMS-D Global Hawk variant several years ago. When it comes to the realm of EW many of the specifics are likely not available for security reasons, yet the U.S. F-35 is reported to operate with an extremely advanced EW system. 

Cutting-edge EW systems are able to discern and “deconflict” the spectrum to identify hostile or threatening frequencies and RF signatures to establish a “line of bearing” and succeed in jamming or disabling enemy communications or weapons guidance systems.  

B-52H and F-35I Adir. Image Credit: IDF.

B-52H and F-35I Adir. Image Credit: IDF.

The F-35A now operates with a BAE-built AN/ASQ-239 EW system, which its developers say introduces 360-degree detection, greater ranges and signal fidelity, and advanced countermeasures. Advanced EW systems are able to simultaneously operate on or even jam a number of different frequencies, accurately discern threats and signals, and enable key countermeasures such as frequency hopping.

Frequency hopping is an interesting technology wherein an EW system is engineered to essentially “counter” a countermeasure. For instance, perhaps an EW signal or RF-reliant weapons guidance system is jammed or attacked by an enemy, frequency hopping would enable the offensive EW systems to continue to operate by “hopping” to another frequency to avoid interference.

Israeli Air Force F-35I. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Israeli Air Force F-35I. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Israel likely has its own adaptations of advanced EW technology tailored to the kinds of threats they expect in the region such as Iranian air defenses or electronic guidance systems used in weapons fired by Israel’s regional adversaries.

Author Expertise and Biography: 

Kris Osborn is the Military Affairs Editor of 19 FortyFive and President of Warrior Maven – Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

Original News Source – 1945