Israeli F-35 marks combat debut in Syria

Israel has confirmed the much speculated involvement of its Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets in the recent Syrian air strikes.

The involvement marks combat debut for the fifth generation stealth fighter that entered service in 2016, which had a protracted development since 1992, marred with serious developmental challenges and cost overruns.

Israeli Air Force twitter account said "The F-35 squadron has become an operational squadron. We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East - we might be the first to attack with F-35 in the Middle East" quoting Israeli Air Force head Maj. Gen Amikam Norkin.

The fighters participated in two air strikes over the Syria.

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) received its first F-35 in December 2016 and have 9 of the 50 aircraft on order in inventory. Israeli F-35 version is designated F-35I "Adir" and are locally customized and fitted with more advanced avionics system.

One of the major addition is the integration of an Israeli-developed command, control, communications, computer and intelligence (C4I) system into the Adir. The data collected by F-35 sensors can be shared with other Israeli military assets, particularly nearby fighters, via locally made data links to help detect, prioritize and attack enemy targets.

Israel's decision to employ the F-35 on combat may stem from the loss of a IAF F-16I fighter to a Syrian air defense missile during the February air strike.

The stealthy F-35 are difficulty to get detected by hostile radars compared to fourth generation fighters.

In the April 9 air strike, IAF fighter jets had targeted a soon-to-be-deployed Iranian Tor air defense system and a drone hangar in Syria.