The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has published footage claiming to show two Iranian-made stealth drones being intercepted and shot down by F-35I Adir fifth-generation fighter jets.
According to the information presented by the IAF, the event took place in March 2021. This is the first recorded case of aerial combat conducted by the F-35.
According to the footage, which was posted on IAF’s Twitter account, the drones approached Israeli airspace. Four F-35s were scrambled, and two of them went on to conduct the interception.
“We sent two jets beyond Israel’s borders, to identify, classify, and down the UAVs within seconds. The aircraft is extremely powerful, capable of detecting slow targets far from ‘home’, and in coordination with the control units, they provide wide-ranging air defense against constantly evolving regional threats,” an unnamed colonel from IAF’s 116th Squadron is quoted in the press release.
The release identifies the drones as Iranian-made Shahed 197s. The IAF video features footage recorded by the F-35’s sensors, showing the aircraft to be a flying wing, with a propeller also clearly visible in the back.
Last year, Israeli “Adir” (F-35I) fighter jets successfully intercepted two Iranian UAVs launched towards Israeli territory. pic.twitter.com/FQsEjKzxct
— Israeli Air Force (@IAFsite) March 7, 2022
Iran has been producing numerous jet- and propeller-driven models of stealth drones, most of which are based on the US-made Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, which was captured the Iranian military in 2011.
According to the release, the drone was delivering small arms to the Hamas organization in the Gaza strip. Several photographs, published by the IAF, show the wreckage of the drone and the remnants of pistols and other objects that were likely to have been carried by the drone.
The IAF did not specify what kind of missile was used to shoot down the drones.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is a fifth-generation single-engine fighter jet with advanced stealth capabilities. Israel uses a specific variant of the jet, called F-35I Adir, based on the F-35A.
The IAF ordered 50 F-35s, which it began to receive in 2016. In 2018, Israel announced that the type has been used in combat for the first time.
Since then, the jet has seen constant use conducting air strikes and reconnaissance operations in neighboring countries.