The Israeli Air Force’s (Zroa HaAvir VeHahalal) second squadron of F-35I ‘Adir’ stealth fighter jets officially inaugurated on Thursday at Nevatim Israeli Air Force Base (Air Force Base 28), near moshav Nevatim. The 116th squadron, nicknamed “Lions of the South,” will join the 140th “Golden Eagle” squadron. Also known as The Lions of the South Squadron (former Flying Wing, and Defenders of the South Squadron) was an F-16A/B fighter squadron. Several planes from the 140th squadron will be transferred to the 116th squadron until additional F-35I land in Israel.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) currently has 20 F-35 Adir aircraft and is expected to receive a total of 50 planes to make two full squadrons by 2024. Of the remaining 30 planes, a total of six planes are expected to land in Israel this year, including the IAF’s experimental F-35 which will act as a test-bed for the country’s planned modifications. The two squadrons making up the ‘Adir’ Division in the IAF used to fly the F-16 ‘Netz’ fighter jet which was decommissioned in 2015.
The F-35I Adir (Mighty One) is an F-35A with unique Israeli modifications. The U.S. initially refused to allow such modifications, then permitted Israel to integrate its own electronic warfare systems, such as sensors and countermeasures. The main computer has a plug-and-play feature for the use of add-on electronics; proposed systems include an external jamming pod, and new Israeli air-to-air missiles and guided bombs in the internal weapon bays.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has considered working on a proposed two-seat F-35. IAI plans to produce conformal fuel tanks. A senior IAF official said that elements of the F-35’s stealth may be overcome in 5 to 10 years despite being in service for 30 to 40 years, thus Israel’s insistence on installing their own electronic warfare systems.