on November 11, 2020, Israeli Air Force Flight Testing Center (FTC) at Tel-Nof AFB received the first F-35I Adir test aircraft outside the United States. The one-of-a-kind aircraft, with serial 924 and construction number AS-15, has been configured uniquely for the IAF and is different from other test aircraft in the USA, as it presents both advanced aeromechanical testing capabilities and full operational capabilities. Interestingly, the Adir was painted with high-visibility colored national insignias and the orange, blue and gray markings of the FTC.
According to the Israeli Air Force:
The first test F-35I (“Adir”) aircraft outside of the United States arrived at the IAF Flight Testing Center (FTC) at Tel-Nof AFB. Our reporters met with personnel from the FTC Squadron to learn about the aircraft that will advance the Israeli Air Force in its enhancement capabilities
November 11th, 2020, marks the start of a new era in the IAF Flight Testing Center (FTC) Squadron – for the first time in 14 years, a first of its kind fighter jet equipped with advanced experimenting capabilities will land at the squadron. The arriving “Adir” (F-35I), designated for flight experiments, will greatly enrich the IAF’s independence in improving its division of fifth-generation aircraft. What makes the jet so unique and how will IAF pilots stretch the limits and capabilities of one of the most advanced aircraft in the world?
“With the new addition of the ‘Adir’ to the lines of experimental aircraft in the Israeli Air Force’s FTC Squadron, we are witnessing a historic event, the magnitude of which cannot be underestimated – a meaningful cornerstone in the IAF’s inauguration and development of the F-35 division”, said Brig. Gen. Oded Cohen, Commander of Tel-Nof AFB. “To the FTC Squadron personnel – the absorption of the ‘Adir’ poses new challenges. I have no doubt that by virtue of your skill and professional spirit you will know, as you have proven in the past, how to challenge the limits of the ‘Adir’s’ capabilities, and lead the IAF through toward new horizons”.
One of the extraordinary aspects of the IAF is its use of Israeli operating systems and munitions on its various flight platforms. In the majority of the acquisitions made in cooperation with the United States, the IAF is given the opportunity to install its own electronic warfare, communications and weapons systems – all to accommodate the platforms to the relevant operational needs and requirements. For the F-35I, the situation is more complicated: “In the ‘Adir’ program, the IAF doesn’t have access to everything, and cannot fully intervene”, described Lt. Col. Y, Commander of the FTC Squadron.
“The ‘Adir’ division is set to play a central role in the IAF’s future operational activity”, Lt. Col. Y. continued. “Therefore, we understand the need to test it and adapt its weapons systems to the operational reality in the field. The experimental F-35I will act as the main building block for acquiring new flight capabilities, and allow for the independent installation of munitions”.
“New weapons affect the aircraft in different ways. We run an entire series of tests to certify a capability, such as a load testing, fluttering, and release fluency,” he added. “In load testing, we examine the durability of the weapon and aircraft while performing complex maneuvers. In flutter testing, we check for the aerodynamic phenomena that may endanger the jet. While testing release fluency, we scan for issues in the release process of munitions – a significant test for the ‘Adir’ since its payload is released from an internal hold in the jet’s body. After the testing process is completed, we are able to determine the guidelines for operating with the new capability”.
First Custom-Made F-35 Fighter Jet:
Why exactly is this experimental F-35I model the first of its kind in the world? “To date, the only experimental F-35 models manufactured were aeromechanical testing aircraft of limited operational ability or testing models meant to examine specific systems. The arriving ‘Adir’ model has advanced aeromechanical testing capabilities and full operational capabilities. Similar to other equipped testing aircraft in the FTC, we could, if necessary, convert the model to an operational one”.
“The test ‘Adir’ model is the first-ever to be manufactured in the United States, per our request. Now, they will likely produce additional aircraft based on the current model for themselves”, detailed Lt. Col. Y. “As soon as we’re fully prepared, we will be able to advance the ‘Adir’ Division and its capabilities”.