F-35 Stealth Fighter’s Inaugural Combat Operations

| May 23, 2018 | 23 Comments

F-35s
Haaretz News reports that Israel is the first country in the world to carry out an “operational attack” with the F-35 stealth fighter, Israel Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin said on Tuesday.

“I think that we are the first to attack with the F-35 in the Middle East,” Norkin said. The air force chief was speaking about the Middle East, but this is the first known operational use of the new fifth-generation fighter jet in the world.

Norkin presented images of the F-35 over Beirut, Lebanon, and said that while the stealth fighter did not participate in the most recent strike in Syria, it did in the two previous ones. He was speaking at a conference organized by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) in Herzliya, where senior officers from armies all over the world were invited.

The IAF commander said that Iran fired 32 rockets at Israel during the flare-up across the Syrian border earlier this month. According to him, four rockets were intercepted by Israel and the rest landed outside of Israeli territory, and more than 100 surface-to-air missiles were fired at Israeli jets over Syria.

“After that [the Iranian attack] we attacked over 20 Iranian targets in Syria. Unfortunately, Syrian air defense systems fired over 100 antiaircraft missiles at our planes and in response we destroyed their antiaircraft batteries,” Norkin said.

A senior IAF officer confirmed that the Israel Defense Forces has continued to operate against Iranian forces in Syria since the attack on Israel, which took place overnight between May 9 and 10.

“It is possible to assume that actions have been taken since the recent events,” he explained. “We are continuing to maintain our freedom of action in the region. We are acting to disrupt and prevent [possible attacks] while keeping the situation below the threshold of war.”

“We are continuing with our operational mission against the arming of Hezbollah and Iranian moves to establish themselves in Syria. As far as we are concerned, anywhere we identify consolidation [of Iranian forces] or the introduction of weapons, we act,” the officer added. “Our success is any move that serves the goals of the government leadership, this is our mission.”

IAF chief Norkin outlined the reasons behind Israel’s growing anxiety over Iranian activities in Syria. “The Quds Force established itself at T-4 base, 250 kilometers from Israel. From this base they tried to attack using a drone that entered into Israel, a few months ago. After this incident we realized that they were continuing to store weapons on this base, including air defense capabilities, which we attacked last month,” he explained at the conference.

“Over the past few weeks we learned that Iran had sent long-range missiles and rockets to Syria, including the Uragan launchers that we attacked north of Damascus,” added Norkin.

He told the conference that Israel’s squadron of F-35 jets has taken part in attacks in the Middle East, but the senior officer noted that even though the aircraft are now operational, the IAF is still examining the best ways to operate them. The F-35 has an “incredible potential” and the IAF is currently discussing how to best exploit its huge range of capabilities, he said.

For its part, Israel announced that none of its warplanes had been hit, rather that it had attacked five Syrian antiaircraft batteries and reportedly destroyed all of them after coming under heavy fire.

According to Haaretz’s senior military analyst, the attack dealt a severe blow to embattled Syrian leader Bashar Assad’s antiaircraft forces. The IAF said that five of the batteries that were hit belonged to the Syrian Army and were Russian-built models: SA-22, SA-2, SA-5 and SA-17.

The first use of the F-35 in combat is a major milestone for the aircraft that has been in development since the early 1990s. The program has been marred by both cost overruns and delays, and persistent attacks by critics who have called into question the jet’s warfighting abilities. This is welcome news for the U.S. Marine Corps, which has deployed its short take-off and vertical landing version, the F-35B, to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan, and the US Air Force, which plans to permanently deploy F-35As to the Royal Air Force Base Lakenheath, in England.

Category: Terror War

Comments (23)

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  1. ChipNASA says:

    Well at least it didn’t crash

  2. STGSN says:

    The IAF commander said, “Unfortunately, Syrian air defense systems fired over 100 antiaircraft missiles at our planes and in response we destroyed their antiaircraft batteries.”
    Unfortunately? Riiiight…..
    Kinda reminds me of a T-shirt I saw in Tel Aviv some years ago. It sported the image of an IAF F-16, with the caption:
    “Visit Israel – before Israel visits you.”

  3. 26Limabeans says:

    “IAF is currently discussing how to best exploit its huge range of capabilities”

    Translation: We will re design it for you.

  4. The Other Whitey says:

    SA-2? Seriously? Those damn things have been around for sixty years. I know the Russians never throw anything away, but damn!

    I’m also curious if anyone in charge plans to address the means by which Iran is able to put so much heavy equipment into a country with which they have neither a land border nor clear sea lanes.

    • 5JC says:

      In order to do that they would have to stop Iraq overflights that have been going on since 2011. Now that Sadr has taken over and working on consolidating power I put the odds of that happening at somewhere between zero and none. Now if say there were IAF F35s on station when the overflights reached Syrian airspace that would dramatically shorten flight and landing times. Of course once they hit the ground the aircraft would be shown to be full of baby milk and kittens.

    • AW1Ed says:

      “SA-2? Seriously?” The Flying Telephone Poles of Viet Nam fame. Old yes, but they still must be respected. And while one is sidestepping an SA-2, use care to not to blunder into a more advanced Anti-Air weapon system’s envelope.

      • Mick says:

        Yup; well said.

        ‘Old’ surface-to-air missile systems can still be effective. in 1999, the Serbs used SA-3s to shoot down a USAF F-117 stealth aircraft and a USAF F-16.

        http://www.afhra.af.mil/Portals/16/documents/Airmen-at-War/Haulman-MannedAircraftLossesYugoslavia1994-1999.pdf?ver=2016-08-22-131404-383

        ‘[…]

        (U) The NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia was proceeding remarkably well until March 27, the fourth night of the operation, when a Serbian surface-to-air missile (SAM) brought down a USAF F–117 Nighthawk, piloted by Lt. Col. Dale Zelko (call sign VEGA 31) from the 8th Fighter Squadron. The Serbs actually fired two SAMs at Zelko, but only one hit his aircraft. Lieutenant General Short had expected some air losses, but this one was not expected, because the lost aircraft was a stealth fighter famous for its ability to avoid significant enemy radar detection. Enemy SAM fire had succeeded in spite the Serbs’ very limited use of their radar, which rendered them vulnerable to Allied fighters equipped with HARM missiles.

        […]

        (U) Zelko had already destroyed the most critical command and control target in the heavily defended Belgrade area. Colonel Zoltan Dani, who commanded the 3d Battalion of Serbia’s 250th Air Defense Missile Brigade, claimed to have shot down the F-117 using the Isayev S-125 “Neva,” designated by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as the SA-3 “Goa.” Dani modified the old Soviet surface-to-air missile’s guidance system, of 1960s vintage, in order to increase his chances of shooting down American aircraft. To keep the SA-3 batteries from being targeted successfully by Allied fighters armed with anti-radiation missiles, Dani and his fellow officers limited the times their radar systems were on, and moved them frequently. It is possible that Dani and his crews also worked with visual spotters equipped with infrared and night-vision devices. The F-117 might have become more vulnerable because it flew a route that observers were able to report, or because it became more visible on radar when it turned, or when it opened its weapons bay. There might have been other electromagnetic tools that Dani and his crew were able to use to predict the time and place the F-117 would pass. Zelko considered Dani’s achievement a “nice shot”.

        (U) Serb surface-to-air missiles and antiaircraft artillery failed to down a single NATO aircraft during the entire month of April. On the night of May 2, 1999, however, Serbian forces rejoiced over their shooting down of a second NATO aircraft by SA-3 ground fire over Yugoslavia. This time it was a more vulnerable F–16CG, piloted by Lt. Col. David Goldfein (HAMMER 34), commander of the 555th Fighter Squadron, who had just finished an air strike against Serbian surface-to-air missile sites near Novi Sad. Serbian radar could detect the F-16 more easily than it could an F-117.

        […].’

  5. Greg Roy says:

    Combat tested by IDF F16, F15 and F35.

  6. Ex-PH2 says:

    They used those effectively on Syrian spots?

    Okay, but can they hunt those desert-dwelling porkers with them?

  7. FuzeVT says:

    And then the Syrian air force scrambled their DR.1s. . .

    https://www.duffelblog.com/2015/08/f-35-loses-dogfight-to-red-baron/

  8. A Proud Infidel®™️ says:

    Since when haven’t they Israelis gone KATN (Kick Ass, Take Names) when they engaged an enemy in anger? History shows that they don’t play pattycake when someone is stupid enough to mess with them!

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