Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35I “Adir” stealth fighter jets have trained alongside U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs in Israel for the first time, IAF announced.
The training, dubbed Exercise Enduring Lightning, came to a close on March 29 and involved the participation of F-35Is from the IAF’s 140 Squadron (“Golden Eagle”) and F-35As from USAF’s 34th Fighter Squadron. The IAF’s 122 squadron (“Nahshon”), which operates the “Nahshon” (Gulfstream G500) Control Aircraft, also participated in the exercise, during which the teams faced various aerial and ground threats in advanced 5th generation aircraft.
This is the third time F-35I Adir aircraft are training alongside foreign F-35s. In June of 2019, the IAF, USAF, and Royal Air Force (RAF), joint training exercise Tri-Lightning took place. Additionally, in November 2019, the international Blue Flag exercise hosted Italian F-35s. But this is the first time American F-35 aircraft is participating in a joint training exercise above Israeli skies.
“The Americans are our number one partner”, shares Maj. T, Head of the IAF’s International Exercises Department. “I see great importance in cooperating on the most advanced plane in our collection with us as hosts. The IAF finds it important to work together with the Americans, leaders of the F-35 project, see how they operate, learn from them, and strengthen cooperation in the field of cutting-edge aviation technology”.
Maj. M, leader of the exercise on behalf of the 140 Squadron, adds: “This will be the second time we’ll fly alongside an American F-35. We aspire to stay as connected as possible to countries involved in its development project, and training with the Americans presents an excellent opportunity to do so since they have a lot of knowledge and expertise on the matter. The exercise we conducted was intimate. The forces flew in two formations of four, and communicated directly as opposed to through an indirect channel”.
The exercise was held exclusively in the air, with no face-to-face encounters between Israeli and American teams. Additionally, debriefings and briefings were conducted using classified communications devices – all due to the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak.
“During these times, holding this international training exercise with the world’s most advanced flight platforms, while facing limitations – should not be taken for granted”, describes Maj. T.
The exercise laid a foundation for more of its kind in Israel.
“We intend to create an exercise so it will eventually become a home court exercise”, explains Maj. T. “In other words, we aspire to train like we did yesterday with American forces here in Israel regularly”.