Israel's F-35I Lightning II defeats Houthi cruise missile attack

On November 01, 2023, an Israeli F-35I Lightning II fighter, also known as "Adir", made history by successfully shooting down a cruise missile fired by the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen. This was the first-ever air-to-air interception of a cruise missile by an F-35.

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Israels F 35I Lightning II successfully defeats Houthi Cruise Missile Attack 925   The F-35I variants are equipped with the AIM-9X Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. (Picture source: Israel Defense Forces)

Video footage of the F-35I intercept was shared on social media, highlighting this impressive feat of modern military technology.

The missile used by Houthi rebels to attack the Israeli port city of Eilat was a Qadr, an improved version of Iran's Shahab-3 missile. The Qadr is approximately 15 meters tall, carries a warhead weighing between 700 and 1,000 kilograms, and uses propellant as fuel. Its range is approximately 1,500 to 2,000 kilometers.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) detected a cruise missile launched from the southeast toward Israeli airspace and quickly took off the F-35 Adir fighters. These aircraft successfully intercepted the incoming missile, although the specific weapon used for the interception was not disclosed.

The F-35I variants are equipped with the AIM-9X Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, known for their precision and effectiveness in aerial combat.

The AIM-9X Sidewinder is a short-range air-to-air missile used primarily for close-in aircraft-to-aircraft engagements. It is known for its high maneuverability and its ability to effectively track and intercept enemy air targets. The missile is equipped with infrared sensors that allow it to detect and lock on to a target based on its heat signature. The AIM-9X is widely used by many air forces around the world for close-in air defense.

The AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) is a medium-range air-to-air missile designed to engage aerial targets at greater ranges than the AIM-9X. It is equipped with an active radar that allows it to track and intercept targets at extended ranges, even when direct visibility of the target is limited. The AIM-120 AMRAAM is used by several air forces around the world for medium-range air defense operations and is renowned for its accuracy and ability to shoot down aerial targets effectively.

Rebecca Grant, President of IRIS Independent Research, commented on the significance of this intercept, noting that it demonstrates the F-35's ability to detect and engage cruise missiles at low altitude. She also stressed that the F-35's capabilities are expected to expand further in the future.

In a related development, the US Department of Defense (DoD) provided Israel with special computer files containing detailed information on enemy threats. This assistance is aimed at strengthening Israel's F-35 fleet, which is actively used in various operations, including against Hamas.

The F-35I, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is a multi-role stealth fifth-generation fighter equipped with a fusion of advanced sensors, stealth capabilities and the Autonomous Logistics Information System (ALIS) for effective operational control.

This feat highlights the effectiveness of international collaboration within the Joint Strike Fighter program, with countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Italy and Israel among its participants. Israel, in particular, was the first to choose the F-35 through the Foreign Military Sales process in 2010 and reached operational capability with the F-35 fleet in December 2017.

The successful interception of a cruise missile by the Israeli F-35 marks a milestone in military technology and reinforces the importance of advanced fighters in modern defense and security strategies.