Meet the Israeli fighter jets that are bombing Gaza

F-15I, F-15C and F-16C fighters of the Israeli Air Force and F-15E of the United States. Photo: IDF-AF.

Since last Saturday (07) the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are leading to Operation Iron Swords, in response to intense attacks by the fundamentalist group Hamas. The country has officially declared war on militants in the Gaza Strip, something that has not been seen for 50 years. The world took its eyes off the conflict between Ukraine and Russia and turned its focus to the Middle East. In this context, social networks were flooded with images of the war, including the action of the Israeli Air Force (IAF), which bombs Gaza using its fighter planes. 

Recognized for being one of the most combat-experienced air forces, the IAF is also among the best equipped in the region. The majority of the fighter fleet is made up of the F-15 and F-16, present in several variants. The tip of the spear is the stealth F-35, which in the country is called Adir. 

The three models have been used extensively against jihadists, with support from other intelligence aircraft, cargo and attack and transport helicopters. 

F-16 – The most numerous

Historically, Israel is one of the largest operators of the F-16, having acquired 362 units of the model since its first purchase in 1978. Since then, the F-16 has been a workhorse, operating in both the air-to-air and air-to-ground arenas. . It was in the hands of Israel that the North American fighter carried out one of the most daring operations in history, the attack on the Osirak reactor. 

F-16I Sufa Israel CFT
The Israeli Air Force F-16I Sufa has conformal fuel tanks mounted on the fuselage. Photo: IAF.

The Israelis are also known for customizing their equipment, and the F-16 would be no different. Operating in operations against Hamas are the F-16C/D Barak and F-16I Sufa. The variants received a range of locally sourced avionics, including mission computers and electronic warfare systems. Weapons manufactured in the country were also added, such as Python and Derby missiles, ELTA jamming pods and SPICE bombs, used in conjunction with United States weapons.

Currently, the IAF has around 224 F-16 Sufa and Barak in operation. 

F-15 – Heavy fighter-bomber

Israel was the first export customer for the legendary F-15 Eagle, operating the model since 1977. Locally called Baz (Eagle), it was in the hands of IAF pilots that the fighter achieved the first of 104 career kills.

Israeli Air Force F-15I Ra'aam fighter-bomber. Photo: Amit Agronov.
Israeli Air Force F-15I Ra'aam fighter-bomber. Photo: Amit Agronov.

The IAF is also the only F-15 operator that employs the legacy versions (A, B, C and D) in ground attack actions, while other countries use these versions only for aerial combat missions. Still, in the late 1990s Israel acquired the F-15E Strike Eagle, named Ra'am (thunder). Like the F-16, the F-15 also received integration of locally produced weapons and avionics. 

There are 84 aircraft in service, divided between three squadrons: Spearhead, Hammers and Twin-Tail Knights, in addition to the Flight Test Center. In 2020, the IAF signed the purchase of 25 F-15EX jets, a newer version of the Eagle, and also plans to upgrade its F-15Is to the new standard.

F-35 – State of the art

The most modern and capable fighter in the entire Middle East has been in the Israeli Air Force's inventory since 2017. Israel has been a partner in the F-35 program for 20 years and in 2018 became the first country to use the controversial American jet in combat.

The F-35IAdir taxiing in Nevatim. Photo: IAF via Twitter.
The F-35IAdir taxiing in Nevatim. Photo: IAF via Twitter.

Just like the models mentioned above, the IAF also made its own customizations to the F-35, in addition to being the only operator outside the United States that received a model for testing, precisely because of its tradition in modifying its planes. The 36 F-35I Adir are operated at Nevatim air base by 117 Squadron. 

Bonus: JDAM bombs  

Joint Direct Attack Munitions. This is the acronym for JDAM, one of the main weapons used by Israeli jets in the counteroffensive against Hamas. Developed by McDonnell Douglas, it is a kit that transforms a conventional bomb into an intelligent weapon, guided by GPS. 

IAF soldier doing checks on a GBU-31 JDAM. Photo: Israel Air Force.
IAF soldier doing checks on a GBU-31 JDAM. Photo: Israel Air Force.

The JDAM can be adapted to all bombs in the Mk.80 series, the largest of which is the Mk.84, which when equipped with the JDAM becomes the GBU-31. This is the model used by the IAF to tear down buildings in Gaza, as seen in the video below. 


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Gabriel Centeno

Author Gabriel Centeno

Journalism student at UFRGS, spotter and military aviation enthusiast.

Categories: Military, News, News

Tags: fighters, War, Israel, usaexport