Photo Credit: IAF
Israeli, US and UK F-35 participate in the Tri-Lightning joint exercise. June 2019

The Israeli Air Force (IAF), the US Air Force and the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force (RAF) on Tuesday concluded the Tri-Lightning joint exercise, the first time in history that F-35 fighters from several armies participated in a joint drill.

The exercise took place during IAF week, marking 71 years since the establishment of the Israeli Air Force.


The US Air Force F-35As flew from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, the Royal Air Force F-35Bs flew from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, and the IAF F-35Is flew from Nevatim Air Base.

Tri-Lightning was a one-day defensive counter air exercise involving friendly and adversary aircraft from the three participating countries, and consisted of active and passive air defense operations, the US Air Forces Central Command stated.

The IDF underscored that the exercise was pre-scheduled as part of the annual training graph and constitutes a unique opportunity for the joint training of the 5th generation combat aircraft. Furthermore, the exercise enabled the cooperation between the air forces and the development of joint capabilities.

The Air Force maintains and continues to hold significant international training to strengthen future military cooperation, with an emphasis on advancing the F-35 capabilities, the IDF noted.

IAF Brigadier General Amnon Ein-Dar stated that the exercise was “the first international F-35 exercise, reflecting the close cooperation between the forces. International cooperation between Israel, the US and Britain reinforce common interests and new and exclusive capabilities in the Middle East.”

“We build capacity with our strategic partners to harness our air component’s capabilities and skills,” said Lt. Gen. Joseph T. Guastella, US Air Forces Central Command commander. “The transatlantic strategic relationship between the US and our allies and partners has been forged over the past seven decades, and is built on a foundation of shared values, experience and vision.”

“Tri-Lightning provided an outstanding opportunity for the squadron to operate and learn from our fellow F-35 community,” said UK Wing Commander John Butcher, Squadron 617 commanding officer. “In addition it allowed us to share and gain valuable experience that we will be able to exploit during future training and potentially operational deployments, whether embedded on the Queen Elizabeth or from overseas airbases.”

The F-35 “Adir” Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) was declared operational by the IAF in December 2017. The Israeli F-35 was the first outside of the US to be declared operational, preceded only by the US Marine Corps and US Air Force.

The first two fighters arrived in Israel on December 2016.

The fifth-generation fighter jet, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is considered one of the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft.

Israel has acquired a total of 50 F-35s which are to be supplied by December 2024.