Israeli Air Force Gears for Ultimate Test: Strikes in Iran

Israeli fighter jet (Archive: Eden Briand, IDF/CC)

The IDF is holding intensive training for strike missions in Iran, as Tehran and Jerusalem edge closer to a direct clash. The Air Force reportedly held an exercise in Cyprus in recent days to simulate attacks on Iranian targets.

Earlier, a Western defense source told Saudi website Elaph that the IDF practiced strikes on sensitive Iranian sites. The renewed focus on Iran comes after months without training, as the Air Force dedicated all its energies and resources to operations in Gaza and elsewhere.  

Tensions skyrocketed after a high-ranking Iranian officer was killed in an alleged Israeli strike on an Iranian embassy site in Damascus. Israel has made it clear that a direct revenge attack by Iran would trigger retaliation on Iran’s soil.

Israel and Iran are now closer than ever to a direct military conflict, veteran expert Raz Zimmt wrote in Ynet. Tehran is currently willing to take greater risks than before but still wishes to avoid a full-scale war, he estimated.

Israel upgrades F-35s

Notably, the Israeli Air Force has been preparing for years for strike missions in Iran. As part of this process, the IDF developed new capabilities and techniques, while building a large stockpile of munitions. [including expensive advanced armaments, according to a previous report]

Israel was boosting its readiness for a wide-ranging campaign that goes beyond a strike on Iran’s nuclear sites, a senior officer said back in 2021. The IDF will to aim to hit key Iranian assets and military resources in a future assault, he said. [Here’s the full report]

Among other steps, Israel significantly upgraded its F-35 jets for remote strike missions in Iran. Among other things, the stealth fighter jets were armed with bunker-busting bombs. [more details in this report]

F-16 jets will also be mobilized if the government orders the IDF to strike in Iran. Israel upgraded the long-serving aircraft over the years to maximize the IDF’s air power.

Attack on Iran’s nuclear sites?

Over the years, Israel achieved a higher level of readiness for a strike on Iran’s nuclear project. However, it remains unclear whether the IDF will aim to bomb Tehran’s nuclear sites as part of a broad military conflict.

In 2022, the Air Force held several exercises to test different components of its attack plans, Walla News reported. This included coping with Iran’s early detection systems and evading cyber and electronic warfare obstacles.

In a separate drill, F-35 and F-15 fighter jets practiced strike operations on multiple targets. The IDF also simulated a broad assault on Iran by mobilizing nearly 100 warplanes from bases in Israel.

In parallel, Israeli engineers achieved a major technological breakthrough, enabling the F-35 jets to fly to Iran and back without refueling, the report said. The stealth aircraft are expected to play a key role in a strike on the Iranian nuclear project by knocking out air defenses and executing other vital tasks.

The Air Force also developed a heavy bomb that can be carried in the F-35’s belly without harming its stealth mode, Walla said.