Israeli F-35I stealth fighters were grounded from July 30th to August 14th so that all of them could have their ejection seats checked for a potential problem. The labor-intensive inspection meant that only two F-35Is a day could be inspected. None were found to have any of the suspected problems. The grounding applied to training flights, not combat operations, which the F-35Is continued to perform in Syria and Gaza.
The 33 Israeli F-35Is are considered the most effective aircraft in the Israeli Air Forces. This sentiment is shared by many other nations using F-35s and see Israel as the leader in finding out what the F-35 can do. This can be seen by the fact that in the last year there have been a lot more joint exercises involving Israeli and foreign F-35s. Details of these exercises have not been publicized but it apparently involves testing current and new F-35 capabilities and sharing that knowledge with other F-35 users.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February a lot of European nations have sought to obtain F-35s while canceling plans to buy lesser modern jets. Ukraine’s ability to defeat the larger Russian air force, using Ukraine’s own Russian-designed aircraft, made it clear that the Ukrainian tactics carried out with F-35s would provide an enormous edge over air forces equipped with older aircraft. Even China has not yet produced a stealth aircraft as capable as the F-35 and now NATO nations with F-35s realize they have a substantial edge and have shared that knowledge with other NATO countries.
Israel demonstrated what the F-35 was capable of four years ago. By 2019 Israel had 14 F-35I fighters and some had been operational for over a year. These F-35Is flew training missions near the Syrian border and then operational missions over Lebanon and Syria. This came after years spent overcoming opposition from the United States about allowing Israel to modify the F-35A to use Israeli electronic warfare equipment and software, and also to handle Israeli-made missiles and smart bombs as well as a smart helmet (something Israel pioneered). This led to the Israeli aircraft being designated the F-35I, which have been in the air since 2018, often armed and within range of hostile radars and anti-aircraft missiles as well as the latest Russian electronic warfare equipment.
Israeli engineers also confirmed fears that the F-35 is eminently hackable. Other foreign users who have received their first F-35s agree that the heart of the F-35's superior capabilities are its software and digital communications with other aircraft and troops on the ground. Users are pointing out all manner of potential network vulnerabilities, and all are actively seeking which of these vulnerabilities are actual (and fixable) rather than potential and unlikely. F-35 software was designed over a decade ago when much less was known about how combat aircraft software could be hacked and already some basic changes in F-35 software architecture are being planned to deal with that.
This brings up another major problem. The F-35 software is more complex and omnipresent throughout the aircraft than in any previous warplane. It’s a major effort to carry out and test any changes. Some major upgrades are needed in how F-35 software changes are made and how quickly. In wartime this would be essential, as otherwise vulnerable aircraft would be grounded when needed most. Foreign users have also provided useful advice on penetration (“red team”) testing and have become another major effort that was not anticipated.
The U.S. and other foreign users of the F-35 noted Israel’s F-35I experience and the Israelis have increasingly been sharing it with allies. Israel got priority on F-35 deliveries because they are literally a combat zone. Initial reactions of Israeli F-35I pilots and air force commanders were positive. What the Israeli pilots and all others who have flown the F-35 agree on is that its software and degree of automation is spectacular, easy to use and very effective. The F-35 has a large number of sensors (receivers for electronic signals, six cameras and a very capable radar) and the fusion of all that data and presentation to the pilot based on the current situation is impressive and makes the F-35 much easier to fly, despite all the additional capabilities it has.
Israel has become something of an unofficial member of NATO and is sharing a lot of its F-35I knowledge with NATO nations. Israel not only has to deal with Russian aircraft and electronic systems in Syria but an even more dangerous threat from Iran. Israel has finally established diplomatic and defense relationships with some Arab countries who are also threatened by Iran. One aspect of the 2020 Abraham Accords that made it possible for Israel to establish diplomatic relations with Arab states was American willingness to sell F-35s to the UAE. In 2021 a new U.S. government took over and included Qatar in the F-35 deal. This alarmed Israel and many American military leaders who saw Qatari support for Islamic governments and some Islamic terror groups, as well as Iran and China, as good reasons to prohibit F-35 sales to Qatar. The new American government is also inclined to make deals with Iran while also seeking help from Gulf oil states to increase oil production in order to bring oil prices down. The Arabs did not cooperate, not just because of American attitudes towards Iran but also because the new American government had sharply reduced U.S. production of oil. The UAE may eventually get its F-35s but only after the current disputes with Qatar and the Americans are settled.
The Iran-backed Assads are having a difficult time reestablishing a legitimate government, as opposed to its current status as a barely tolerated and much sanctioned government run by war criminals. The Assads have allies who are trying to work out a deal that legitimizes the Assads and leads to lots of economic aid and investment. There is some, but not a lot, of progress with this. Israel is quietly trying to work out a peace deal with the Assads by first consulting Russia, Turkey and the Arab nations Israel has diplomatic relations with. If Israel can achieve a consensus on how to offer and deliver the Assads a workable peace deal, Iran could be driven out of Syria. Israel and the Assads have been, since the 1970s, willing to leave each other alone and make mutually acceptable deals. The Assads would often threaten another war with Israel but did not pose as determined a threat as Iran. Because the Assads became allies of and dependent on Iran in the 1980s for protection from chaos in Iraq and Lebanon, they had to at least pretend to support the Iranian obsession with destroying Israel. The Assads knew better but until the Assad police state failed in 2011 and a rebellion got going, the Assads were able to resist Iranian presence and control of Syria.
August 17, 2022: Israel and Turkey have agreed to restore diplomatic relations. Israel and Turkey had been allies until 2002 when an Islamic party coalition was elected to run Turkey. The main reason for winning the election was the promise to reduce corruption. Next came improving relations with Arab countries. This meant siding with Palestinians whose main goal was the destruction of Israel. That led to severing diplomatic relations with Israel in 2010. The Islamic government also ran into problems with NATO, which Turkey was a member of. The anti-corruption campaign faltered as did economic growth and relationships with Western trading partners. Efforts to restore relations began in 2015 and an agreement was worked out and signed in 2016. That didn’t last and in 2018 Turkey expelled the Israeli ambassador and went back to denouncing Israel for its treatment (the way it defended itself) of Palestinians. Meanwhile the Palestinian cause was losing support from Arab countries because of the Palestinian insistence on destroying Israel and now accepting Iranian support. Iran is at war with most Arab countries. Now Turkey is reviving its policy of staying out of Arab affairs and restoring good relations with Israel and the West. This was a policy adopted a century ago when a republic replaced the Ottoman Empire monarchy.
In the West Bank, there were violent demonstrations against an organized visit by 600 Jews to Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus. This is revered as the burial site for the Biblical patriarch Joseph, who, according to legend, lived over 4,000 years ago in Israel and Egypt. Jews, Christians and Moslems all recognized and visited Joseph’s Tomb over the last 1,700 years. Currently it is popular with devout Jews and guarded by Israeli troops. Efforts by large groups to visit the Tomb are often met with violence. It was no different today. One Palestinian died and 30 were wounded as they battled with the Israeli security force
August 16, 2022: The Israeli army revealed that a soldier shot dead the night before in the West Bank was killed by friendly fire at a checkpoint. The soldier left his post momentarily and not every other soldier at the checkpoint was aware of this. As it was 10:30 PM. When the soldier returned to the checkpoint one of the soldiers quickly opened fire on what he thought was an armed attacker wearing an army uniform. The error was quickly realized and the wounded soldier was rapidly taken to a hospital, where he died. There was a similar incident in January that left two soldiers dead.
August 15, 2022: In Jerusalem a Palestinian tried to attack police with a knife but was shot dead.
August 14, 2022: In the north (Syria) Israeli air strikes outside Damascus and the port of Tartus left three Syrians dead and three wounded. The targets were apparently related to Iranian weapons shipments.
In Jerusalem a Palestinian terrorist fired on a bus carrying Jewish visitors, killing three and wounding five. The killer left but later went to a police station to surrender. If he is convicted and sent to prison the Palestinian will pay him a monthly salary for his services to the Palestinian cause (of destr0ying Israel and killing Jews).
Hamas and Fatah both spend a lot of the foreign aid they spend on encouraging terrorism. These payments go to imprisoned terrorists or the families of dead ones. Hamas and Fatah spend over $200 million a year on this and payments on this scale would not be possible without using foreign aid funds. Since 2019, many donor countries have been cutting their aid in a show of opposition to this “Pay For Slay” policy. The donors, embarrassed by published details of how this works. In the United States Palestinian charities are being sued for illegally soliciting money for needy Palestinians and using a lot of the contributions for supporting terrorism, either for Pay for Slay or to finance current and future attacks. The “Pay for Slay” program is very popular among Palestinians because it makes the losses they suffer for carrying out these attacks easier to tolerate. Hamas and Fatah have another problem, growing criticism from Gaza and West Bank Palestinians as well as in Arab countries against the terrorism in Gaza and the West Bank. Another complication is that Iran is providing economic support to Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian governments in Gaza and West Bank. Another criticism is that the Palestinian leaders justify their relationship because of the common goal to destroy Israel. The problem here is that Israel is a key ally in a Middle Eastern coalition that opposes Iranian aggression. Iran also attacks Saudi Arabia and the UAE while threatening Egypt.
August 13, 2022: Israel destroyed a deep tunnel Hamas had built that went from Gaza City (whose outskirts area a few kilometers from the border) to the Israeli border, then it was divided into two branches. The tunnel was still being extended and had not yet reached the Israeli border barrier. The tunnel is over 30 meters (a hundred feet deep) and the Israelis drilled down and filled the tunnel with an unidentified substance that rendered the tunnel unusable. This was easier than building a passage large enough to get soldiers down there.
August 10, 2022: Israel revealed that Islamic Jihad had launched an explosive equipped UAV several days ago in an attempt to attack the Tamar offshore natural gas platform. The Tamar platform is located 14 kilometers off the coast opposite the city of Ashkelon. The UAV was intercepted and destroyed.
August 7, 2022: In the south (Gaza), the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad declared a ceasefire three days after they broke the truce and attacked Israel, launching 1,100 rockets against southern Israel. About 200 of those rockets were defective and either failed to launch or landed in Gaza. Iron dome intercepted all but a few of the rockets headed for a populated area. Even before Israel retaliated on the 5th, Gazans had been killed or wounded when the defective rockets landed inside Gaza, Israel kept Gaza under constant aerial surveillance and captured video of the rockets being launched from populated areas, including Mosques, schools and residential buildings. The Israeli air strikes destroyed those structures, after warning (usually by cellphone) civilians to get out. Israel hit 147 Islamic Jihad targets, including key leaders and known tunnels used for storing rockets and Islamic Jihad personnel. There were also police raids in the West Bank, to arrest 20 Islamic Jihad members who were seeking to organize attacks on Israel from the West Bank.
Islamic declared itself the victim because 26 Gazans were killed and over 300 wounded. A closer examination of the deaths in Gaza revealed that fifteen of the dead were killed by defective Islamic Jihad rockets that landed inside Gaza. Only 11 Gazans died because of the Israeli airstrikes carried out after the attack. The Israeli airstrikes targeted several Islamic Jihad leaders and succeeded in killing them.
Iran and Islamic Jihad demanded that the UN punish Israel for defending itself so vigorously. The Islamic Jihad attack came despite a ceasefire agreement negotiated by the larger Hamas group that rules Gaza. Hamas says it cannot control the smaller Islamic Jihad, but that is because Hamas also receives some economic aid from Iran. The Islamic Jihad leader arrived in Iran on August 4th for discussions with their Iranian backers. Hamas pressed the Islamic Jihad to halt its violence and back a ceasefire. Israel controls access to Gaza for supplies and jobs in Israel for Gazans. All that halted while Israel was under attack.
July 26, 2022: Israel confirmed rumors that back in May a Russian controlled S300 air defense system fired a missile at an Israeli fighter headed back to Israeli territory. The missile missed because 0f Israeli counter measures. The Russians quietly reported that it was a misunderstanding and won’t happen again. The Russians don’t like incidents like this, which portray the S-300 as ineffective against Israeli countermeasures. The Israeli aircraft attacked an Iranian base in northwest Syria and completely destroyed it.
July 19, 2022: The recent American presidential visit to the region went better than expected because changes in official U.S. policy towards Iran were very unpopular in Israel and Saudi Arabia and the American leader admitted that the use of military force against the Iranian nuclear weapons program might be necessary. Saudi Arabia did announce that Saudi Arabia would officially open its air space to all commercial air traffic. The Saudis described this decision as not specifically about Israel, but in reality, it is because the Saudis already allowed (since 2020) overflights of Israeli commercial aircraft, but only as far as the UAE (United Arab Emirates). This was a side effect of the UAE officially recognizing Israel in 2020. The Saudis implement pro-Israeli measures in this manner or do it quietly. The Saudis and the UAE have long been allies and the more entrepreneurial UAE often adopts policies the Saudis are initially reluctant to follow but, when the Saudis deem it safe for them, they do follow. During the recent American visit, everyone was polite and no one on either side said anything to make the situation with the Americans worse than it already is
The current U.S. government ignores the fact Iran has been run by a religious dictatorship since the 1980s and is facing more opposition from the Iranian people because of that. The Palestinians were promised a resumption in financial aid ($316 million) and support for a two-state solution. The Palestinian media makes it clear that they want Israel destroyed but that was not mentioned during the discussions with the American president. The Palestinians have lost much of their foreign aid, including that from Arab oil states, because so much of it is used to support terrorist against Israel or is stolen by what passes for government in the West Bank and Gaza. The Saudis also said the two-state solution was needed for the Saudis to make official peace with Israel, even though they understand that a two-state deal is not possible with the current Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza. The Saudis have a problem because they have been major promoters of anti-Israel rhetoric since the 1940s and find it difficult to openly change course, like most other Arab oil-states have, especially when faced with growing military threats from Iran. For example, the Palestinian government is financed by Iran. The current American government refuses to recognize the Iranian threat for what it is even as Iran openly supports the Russian invasion of Ukraine and is selling its armed UAVs to Russia, which has still not caught up in that category of military equipment.