Israel’s Lockheed Martin F-35I "Adir" is reported to have made its combat debut during strikes conducted against Syrian air defence systems last month. The action was mounted following a border clash that culminated in an Israeli air force Lockheed F-16 being shot down by a surface-to-air missile.
The F-35I's suggested offensive debut has not been confirmed officially, with Israeli air force commander Maj Gen Amikam Norkin having classified all operations with the type.
Air force officials have described the stealth fighter as a "super-intelligence collector" and a "game-changer", pointing to its ability to acquire and distribute data to other assets in the air and on the ground.
The Israeli air force's "Golden Eagle" squadron currently operates nine F-35Is, and is due to receive another six examples this year.
Israel has so far committed to acquiring 50 conventional take-off and landing F-35s, with its aircraft to be equipped with locally developed electronic warfare equipment and weapons.