Israel’s specially configured variant of the F-35, the F-35I Adir incorporates several key indigenously developed modifications including a separate jamming pod, an electronic warfare (EW) system, and uniquely engineered guided bombs and air-to-air weapons.
While Israel already has 35 of its F-35I Adir variants, the country is now pursuing the addition of more new F-35s to expand the scope and reach of its fleet.
An ability to deploy more F-35Is, particularly because they can easily and quickly network with one another across formations in a secure manner, enables Israel to operate F-35Is across much wider and more dispersed operational areas.
Special F-35 Variant
Israel is unique in its membership in the F-35 program in that the Jewish State operates its own variant. The threat-specific components of the F-35I Adir are likely tailored to respond to Iranian threats. There is proprietary technology or innovations specific to Israel that the Israeli Defense Forces protect.
A tailored EW system is integral to Israel’s needs with the F-35, given the nature of the threats the Israeli Air Force 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.
Throughout the Middle East, Israel’s force of F-35Is would likely establish air superiority quickly, given that Iran and other regional threats do not appear to operate 5th-generation aircraft.
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 remain classified for security issues, 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. Developers say the system 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.
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.
Kris Osborn is the Military Affairs Editor of 19FortyFive 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.
From the Vault