Watch the F-35 score its first air-to-air kills
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter was plagued with controversy and growing pains throughout its development and entry into operational service. However, the controversial stealth fighter has been widely adopted and fielded by the United States and its allies around the world. The Israeli Air Force is one of the most enthusiastic adopters of the F-35. Israeli F-35s were the first to see combat in 2018. On March 7, 2022, the Israel Defense Forces declassified a report and footage of the F-35 marking its first air-to-air kills.
“On March 15, 2021, two Iranian drones attempted to infiltrate Israel,” the previously classified IDF report said. “The Israeli Air Force successfully intercepted these drones using an F-35I ‘Adir’ fighter jet. According to the IDF, the drones were carrying weapons en route to the Gaza Strip. The images broadcast by the IDF are from the F-35’s point of view and begin with the pilot’s visual contact with the first drone. Upon contact with a controller, the pilot receives clearance to fire at the drone. Cleared to fire, he launches a missile that connects to the drone and destroys it.
The IDF footage continues with a second interception by another F-35. It starts with a controller confirming the pilot’s identification of the drone and its triangular wing. The pilot, who has probably already received authorization to engage, fires a missile which makes an impact and the video ends with the destruction of the second drone.
Although not as glamorous as a dogfight with a manned aircraft, drone interceptions still require great skill and precision. Smaller drones, like those shot down by Israeli F-35s, are more difficult to acquire both visually and with radar and can be just as difficult to lock down. With its first aerial kills under its belt, the F-35 continues its fight to prove itself on the modern battlefield.