On 6 August 2020, the Israeli Air Force (IAF), after six months of intensive preparations, declared the 116th Squadron “Lions of the South” became the IAF’s second operational F-35I Adir squadron. All operational IAF Adirs are based at Nevatim Air Base, some 15 kilometers from the Israeli city of Beersheba in the Negev desert.
SOURCE: SCRAMBLE MAGAZINE
The first Israeli operational Adir squadron at Nevatim was 140 Squadron, also known as the “Golden Eagle Squadron”. As for the 116th Squadron: during the last six months, the squadron’s personnel were trained through various required scenarios to prepare for “the operational fitness inspection”. The latter took place last week (the first week of August).
The “Lions of the South” are now prepared for real (war) situations. “The operational fitness inspection” included 72 hours of intensive simulated combat, rewarded with an official IAF seal of approval for the operational capability of the 116th Squadron to carry out all missions of the Adir division at Nevatim.
While the 116th passed “the operational fitness inspection”, four new IAF F-35Is (serials 924, 933, 935 and 937) arrived at Nevatim on 4 August 2020. It is expected that 924 will be allocated to the IAF Manat Flight Test Center at Tel Nof Air Base in due time.
Strikingly, 924, adorned with telemetry markers, has an extra blade aerial on top of its aft fuselage. This is apparently for data transmission. The IAF also conducted exercise “Enduring Lightning II” over southern Israel last week.
F-35Is of the IAF’s 140th Squadron flew multiple sorties with – and against – USAF 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron Lightning IIs. This unit’s HL-coded F-35As are currently deployed to the Middle East.