At the height of the second coronavirus wave that hit Israel this summer, an undercover, unique and complex Air Force operation was launched to update the software of the advanced F-35I (“Adir”) fighter jets that Israel purchased from the United States, News 12 reported this week.
In December 2017, the government of Israel procured the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II for the Israeli Air Force as the F-35I “Adir.” The first nine F-35s became operational with the Israeli Air Force then.
A senior Israeli air force official told the Washington Post in 2010 that “the aircraft will be designated F-35I, as there will be unique Israeli features installed in them.”
The United States initially refused to allow the integration of Israel’s own electronic warfare systems into the aircraft’s built-in electronic suite. However, Israel planned the introduction of a plug-and-play feature added to the main computer to allow for the use of Israeli electronics in an add-on fashion, and to fit its own external jamming pod.
The current software update could only be performed by Lockheed Martin experts, and so about two weeks ago, several dozen Lockheed Martin engineers and technicians arrived in Israel on a special flight, and from the moment they landed, they were kept in isolation, away from everything but the warplanes, seeing as the US is the reddest country on the planet in terms of exposure to the coronavirus pandemic.
The American crew were isolated in a dedicated compound built for them at the Nevatim Airbase southeast of Be’er Sheva, near moshav Nevatim. There they upgraded the aircraft’s electronic warfare system to be able to block radars and not allow them to lock on the aircraft.
The upgraded system also disrupts missiles that have already been launched at it, locates enemy aircraft and air and ground defense systems, providing the pilot with real time information on new threats.