Two Israeli F-35I fighter jets entered Iranian airspace undetected over the past month, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida claimed on March 29.
According to Al-Jarida’s report quoting “a well-informed source”, the two F-35I flew over Syrian and Iraqi airspace to reach Iran and even conducted recognisance missions over the Iranian cities Bandar Abbas, Esfahan and Shiraz. Furthermore, the newspaper argued that the fighter jets circled at high altitude above Persian Gulf sites suspected of being associated with the Iranian nuclear program.
Al-Jarida went further saying that the warplanes were undetected by any radar, including by Russian air defense systems deployed in Syria and Russian-made S-300 air defense systems deployed by Iran across the country.
The newspapaer described the alleged incident as a a signal of increasing regional tensions and recalled February strikes by Israel on alleged Iranian targets in Syria as another thing of the complicated situation in the region.
Al-Jarida’s claims have been widely spreaded by the Israeli media, but have been questioed by independent experts and even media outlets.
There are few reasons:
- Al-Jarida is a media outlet widely associated wirth Israel and involved into Israeli media and propaganda campaign;
- The F-35I’s range of 2,000 km [without external fuel tanks] does not allow the warplane to fly over Iran and went back without stopover or aerial refueling;
- The claim about the alleged F-35I operation over Iran came a day after Chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) Gadi Eizenkot claimed that the Israeli military had resumed striking targets in Syria [without providing any details or evidence];
On February 10, the Syrian Air Defense Forces shot down an Israeli F-16 warplane which was involved in strikes on alleged Iranian targest inside Syria. This was a major military and PR blow to the IDF showing that the Israeli Air Force now have significant limits in operations in Syrian airspace. Since then, Israeli aircraft have conducted no strikes on any targets inside Syria despite Eizenkot’s March 28 claim.
This situation forces the Israeli leadership to conduct additional efforts to defend the Israeli image as a dominant regional military power. However, so far, these efforts have resulted in little progress.