On March 21, the Israeli Defense Force commander confirmed what everyone already knew: on the night of 5-6 September 2007 eight Israeli Air Force fighter planes destroyed the nuclear reactor near Deir ez Zor Syria. The reactor was soon to be fueled, creating a potential hazard to Israeli security. The Syrian reactor, built with North Korean technology and Iranian funding, was destroyed by four F-16I Sufas and four F-15I Ra’am fighter jets. The IDF statement included video taken by targeting pods during the raid. The IDF Commander bluntly stated if Israel’s security were to be threatened, they’re willing to do it again.
Many have speculated if and when the IAF would employ their new Lockheed Martin F-35 Adir stealth fighters in the Middle East. We wait no longer to find out. During a recent Senior Commander’s symposium in Israel, the IDF Commander Major General Amikam Norkim said to the audience, “We performed the F-35’s first ever operational strike. The IAF is a pioneer and a world leader in operating air power,” he stated. The picture he had on the screen behind him showed an F-35I flying over Beirut Lebanon, which the General would not release to the public. General Norkin did state the Adir or “Mighty One” did not participate in the retaliatory airstrikes against Iranian targets a few weeks ago.
There have been reports the F-35Is have flown all the way to Iran, circling over the Bandar Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant on the Persian Gulf coast, and possibly to the nuclear research facility at Natanz. Those two flights would put the F-35 at its maximum range without refueling so many speculated this was propaganda by a Kuwaiti news source.
Arab countries are just as afraid of what Iran will do if they procure nuclear weapons as Israel. If the Arab world grants overfly rights to an air refueled Israeli strike package, there are no places in Iran where the F-35I could not go and drop satellite or laser guided bombs on their nuclear program’s facilities.
About the author, Mark Hasara
Author of Tanker Pilot: Lessons from the Cockpit, Mark Hasara is a retired US Air Force pilot with 24 year in the KC-135 airborne tanker. He is a speaker and aviation industry consultant in campaign planning and cockpit architecture. Follow his weekly newsletter “On the Nations DIME”.