Israel’s Unique F-35I Adir Test Aircraft Arrives at Tel-Nof AFB

A unique F-35I Adir test aircraft, which was developed to match the unique requirements of the Israeli Air Force (IAF), arrived at the IAF Flight Testing Center (FTC) at Tel-Nof AFB on Nov. 11.

According to the IAF, the aircraft (AS-15, 924), which is designated for flight experiments, will greatly enrich the service’s independence in improving its division of fifth generation aircraft. This is the first F-35 test aircraft outside of the United States.

“With the new addition of the ‘Adir’ to the lines of experimental aircraft in the Israeli Air Force’s FTC Squadron, we are witnessing a historic event, the magnitude of which cannot be underestimated – a meaningful corner stone in the IAF’s inauguration and development of the F-35 division”, said Brig. Gen. Oded Cohen, Commander of Tel-Nof AFB. “To the FTC Squadron personnel – the absorption of the ‘Adir’ poses new challenges. I have no doubt that by virtue of your skill and professional spirit you will know, as you have proven in the past, how to challenge the limits of the ‘Adir’s’ capabilities, and lead the IAF through toward new horizons”.

One of the extraordinary aspects of the IAF is its use of Israeli operating systems and munitions on its various flight platforms. In the majority of the acquisitions made in cooperation with the United States, the IAF is given the opportunity to install its own electronic warfare (EW), communications and weapons systems – all to accommodate the platforms to the relevant operational needs and requirements.

For the F-35I, the situation is more complicated: “In the ‘Adir’ program, the IAF doesn’t have access to everything, and cannot fully intervene”, described Lt. Col. Y, Commander of the FTC Squadron.

“The ‘Adir’ division is set to play a central role in the IAF’s future operational activity”, Lt. Col. Y. continued. “Therefore, we understand the need to test it and adapt its weapons systems to the operational reality in the field. The experimental F-35I will act as the main building block for acquiring new flight capabilities, and allow for independent installation of munitions”.

“New weapons affect the aircraft in different ways. We run an entire series of tests to certify a capability, such as load testing, fluttering, and release fluency,” he added. “In load testing, we examine the durability of the weapon and aircraft while performing complex maneuvers. In flutter testing, we check for aerodynamic phenomenon that may endanger the jet. While testing release fluency, we scan for issues in the release process of munitions – a significant test for the ‘Adir’ since its payload is released from an internal hold in the jet’s body. After the testing process is completed, we are able to determine the guidelines for operating with the new capability”.

In addition to the flight and technical departments, the FTC Squadron has a systems department. The squadron’s aircraft are equipped with systems that collect the data that is later used to examine the test outcomes. The systems department focuses on collecting and dissecting the data from the aircraft systems, including delivering the information in real-time to the squadron on the ground, where the test is closely monitored.

“The purpose of the systems is to provide data that the aircraft cannot display on its own, thus allowing for an effective de-brief and learning experience”, said Maj. Manny, Commander of the Systems Department. Most of the systems are installed during the production of the jet, and the Systems Department can add additional ones according to the kind of test. “While planning for the acquisition of the experimental F-35I, the IAF began to establish the kind of testing that would be held. Accordingly, appropriate systems were assimilated during production”.

In the near future, concurrent with the integration of the aircraft, American teams from F-35 developer Lockheed Martin will arrive at the squadron to deliver system instructions to its personnel.

“The ‘Adir’ speaks a different language, one that we must connect with and learn to understand”, mentioned Maj. Manny and Lt. Col. Y added: “The IAF knows how to operate the “Adir”, but does not yet know how to operate an experimental model. We need to receive the relevant knowledge in order to operate the aircraft and fly it prior to the testing process”.

The FTC’s flight line operates all of the IAF’s fighter jets and the technical department must maintain them regularly and thoroughly.

“The 5th generation aircraft is differs from the rest of the FTC’s aircraft”, emphasized Maj. A. “Consequently, all of the ‘Adir’ technical staff underwent a series of designated F-35I training in order to maximize their independence prior to the jet’s arrival. The ‘Adir’ integration adds a layer of complexity to the department’s routine since F-35I maintenance is different as well. The arrival of the aircraft constitutes a significant milestone for both the squadron and the technical department”.

“To date, the only experimental F-35 models manufactured were aeromechanical testing aircraft of limited operational ability or testing models meant to examine specific systems. The arriving ‘Adir’ model has advanced aeromechanical testing capabilities and full operational capabilities. Similar to other equipped testing aircraft in the FTC, we could, if necessary, convert the model to an operational one”.

“The test ‘Adir’ model is the first-ever to be manufactured in the United States, per our request. Now, they will likely produce additional aircraft based on the current model for themselves”, detailed Lt. Col. Y. “As soon as we’re fully prepared, we will be able to advance the ‘Adir’ Division and its capabilities”.

F-35I Adir test aircraft lands at Tel-Nof AFB
Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35I Adir test aircraft lands at Tel-Nof AFB. Photography: Amit Agronov.
F-35I Adir test aircraft at Tel-Nof AFB
Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35I Adir test aircraft at Tel-Nof AFB. Photography: Amit Agronov.

Israeli F-35 Procurement:

In October 2010, Israel signed a letter of agreement through the United States government’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process to become the first country to select the F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) variant.

F-35I Adir (Hebrew: אדיר, meaning “Awesome”, or “Mighty One”) is an F-35A CTOL variant equipped with unique Israeli modifications. The Israeli Air Force declared its F-35I fleet operationally capable on 6 December 2017 second behind the U.S. The F-35 recorded its first operational strike in the service of the Israeli Air Force, targeting Iranian military facilities in Syria during 2018’s clashes.

Israel’s industrial contribution to the F-35 program includes Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) F-35A wing production; Elbit Systems’ work on the Generation III helmet-mounted display (HMD) system, which all F-35 pilots fleet-wide will wear; and Elbit Systems-Cyclone F-35 center fuselage composite components production.

Israel’s program of record is 50 F-35As. According to reports, the IAF is also considering the purchase of an additional 25 F-35Is.

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II

Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather, fifth-generation stealth multirole fighters designed and developed by Lockheed Martin to perform ground attack and air defense missions.

It has three main models: the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, the F-35B short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) variant, and the F-35C carrier-based Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) variant.



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