Last week, an Israeli F-35I Adir fighter downed a cruise missile fired by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. It was the first known intercept of a cruise missile made by the fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighter.
The Adir is the Israeli Air Force’s (IAF’s) specialized variant, and its name roughly translates as “Mighty” or “Mighty One” in Hebrew. The aircraft are reported to be armed with AIM-9X Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles.
“In recent days, a cruise missile launched from the southeast toward the airspace of the State of Israel was detected by the control and detection systems of the Air Force. The systems followed the trajectory of the cruise missile and launched fighter jets from the Adir formation, which successfully intercepted it,” the IAF said in a statement on X.
The IAF released a video of the incident. According to The Drive, the footage was recorded from the F-35I’s helmet-mounted display. An AIM-9X Sidewinder infrared-guided missile was likely the ordnance used.
Israel also has the distinction of scoring the first reported “kill” with the F-35, which happened when it shot down a pair of drones it said were launched from Iran in March 2021.
The Mighty Israel Fighter
Israel nearly 13 years ago became the first country to select the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II through the U.S. government’s foreign military sales process. The IAF received its initial F-35A in a ceremony at the defense and aerospace giant’s Fort Worth, Texas facility in June 2016.
In July of this year, the Israeli government announced it had approved the purchase of a third squadron of F-35 stealth fighter jets in a deal worth $3 billion. The deal, which is set to be finalized before the end of the year, will be financed through American military aid to Israel, as well as that of the maker of the plane, Lockheed Martin, and the maker of the aircraft’s engine, Pratt & Whitney.
Those two companies also committed to involving Israeli defense industries in the production of aircraft components.
The Middle Eastern nation will eventually have 75 of the fifth-generation aircraft in its fleet.
The Adir is a variant built especially for Israel that features a domestically produced electronic warfare system. It was designed to ensure that the IAF’s F-35s would retain their edge over other aircraft throughout the service life of the airframes, and it added advanced sensors and countermeasures. In addition, IAF pilots are equipped with a locally developed helmet-mounted display that utilizes datalink functionality specific to the Israel Defense Forces.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.