Israel’s Top 5 Weapons of War (That Means F-35s, Drones and Lasers)

Surrounded by hostile neighbors, Israel has relied on its military prowess to survive since its founding over seven decades ago.

Despite the country’s small size, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is arguably the best trained, best equipped, and most capable military service in the entire Middle East.

The Israeli government prioritizes the use of technological advances to gain its military advantage over its opponents. Because of this, Israel’s own arsenal of weapons is thriving.

In addition, the Jewish state has acquired top-of-the-line equipment from its American ally, some of which the IDF has further developed with indigenous systems.

With that in mind, I would argue that Israel’s top 5 weapons of war are – and these are military platforms – that every nation on earth would love to have.

The F-35I Adir

Israel’s specialized variant of the fifth-generation F-35 Lightening II American-made fighter jet truly functions as the backbone of the Israel Air Force (IAF).

When the Jewish state was denied access to the US F-22 Raptor – which by law cannot be exported – the F-35 seemed like the right choice.

Israel was the first country outside of the nine-nation Joint Strike Fighter Joint Development Group to acquire the fighter, for which Lockheed Martin also granted special stipulations to allow the IAF to procure a custom variant of the stealth fighter. The resulting airframe is the F-35I Adir, a fighter so advanced it may well surpass the US model.

The Adir platform can be externally modified by the IAF, which also has access to the fighter’s advanced digital architecture. Therefore, Israel has the ability to access the jet’s electronic warfare and surveillance suite, communications systems, and mission control hardware.

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Lockheed Martin also allowed the IAF to incorporate domestically made helmet sets and wings into the Adir.

F-35I Adir

Between November 3 and November 14, the exercise “BLUE FLAG” took place at the air base “Uvda” in southern Israel. This exercise is the first “fifth generation” international exercise to be held in Israel with the participation of the F-35 aircraft.
The Blue Flag exercise is of paramount strategic importance and will have a significant impact on the Air Force, the IDF and the State of Israel as a whole. Over a thousand flight crews, as well as technical and administrative personnel from various air forces, will take part in the exercise.
IAF photo by: Amit Agronov

A distinctive feature of the F-35I is its “plug-and-play” capability for add-on systems such as air-to-air missiles and external electronic warfare pods.”

This “groundbreaking” platform has only enhanced Israel’s leading air force and its flawless capabilities. The Adir flew in its first-ever mission in 2018 when a fleet of F-35Is flew in a mission for the Israel Air Force. Since then, the Adir has helped Israel deter enemy opponents and supported the IDF’s shadow war with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Merkava tank

While maintaining air superiority over its neighbors is vital, the IDF has not neglected the importance of providing its ground forces with the best possible technology.

Israel’s Merkava Chariot tank is so powerful that it is widely touted as the world’s best Main Battle Tank (MBT).

Since its inception, the Jewish state has been vulnerable to ground attacks with enemy opponents along its shared borders. Without the Merkava, Israel’s armored corps would be in a more dangerous position.

The Merkava was developed in Israel after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when the IDF realized that pursuing a domestic tank would be in the best interest of Israeli security. At the time, Israel’s regional enemies were using Soviet tanks, which the IDF Armored Corps had to counter.

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Israel’s Merkava IV tank. Photo credit: Creative Commons.

The tank entered service in 1979 with unprecedented designs. The Merkava featured a front-facing engine, which was unorthodox as other modern tanks were usually designed with engines at the rear. In addition, the Merkava was equipped with thicker armor to better protect her crew.

Over the years, the Merkava has played a crucial role in numerous conflicts. After the 1982 Lebanon War, Israel incorporated modifications into the tank while retaining its native design. The latest variant of the Merkava IV is by far the most powerful of the tank family.

It is equipped with the best asset protection that any platform in the armored corps possesses, the Trophy active protection system.

The trophy defense system

The Trophy active protection system is designed to protect armored vehicles, including tanks, from incoming anti-tank missiles and bazookas.

The advanced system is capable of using advanced radars to locate and intercept a threat before it engages the tank it is protecting.

In addition to its obvious defensive capabilities, the Trophy also qualifies as an offensive weapon. Since tank shells travel faster than rockets, the tank can return fire as soon as it detects a threat.

As Trophy system manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defense Systems explains, “TROPHY creates a neutralization bubble around the vehicle. It quickly detects, classifies and engages all known chemical energy (CE) threats – including recoilless rifles, ATGMs, AT missiles, HEAT anti-tank rounds and RPGs. It increases the lethality of combat troops and successfully neutralizes enemy anti-tank teams.

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The Trophy system has saved many lives since it went live in 2011 and continues to protect Israel’s ground forces during operations along the country’s border.

iron dome

Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system rose to prominence last year during the Hamas-Israel flare-up of May 2021. The purpose of the defense system is to intercept and eliminate short-range projectiles from ranges of 2.5 miles to 90 miles.

The Dome has proven to be a crucial asset to the Jewish state’s defense procedures since it was first deployed over a decade ago. Many of Israel’s enemies can position attacks from its border, making the ability to destroy short-range drones, missiles, and missiles extremely important.

iron dome

Iron Dome Launcher at Israel Air Force Exhibition in Ramat David AFB on Israel’s 69th Independence Day.

The Dome uses a radar that can locate approaching missiles, a command and control system that decodes the threat level of those missiles, and an interceptor that eliminates the threat before it impacts. The missile defense system has an amazing success rate of over 90%. While the dome is not perfect, it is undoubtedly a cornerstone of Israel’s defense strategy.

The Iron Beam

The Iron Beam also represents an emerging pillar for the Jewish state’s air defense capabilities. In May, Israel’s Defense Ministry announced the successful test launch of its laser anti-missile system, capable of intercepting mortars, rockets and anti-tank missiles. Although these abilities appear to be already covered by the Iron Dome, the Iron Beam offers additional benefits. Compared to the Dome’s exorbitant cost, the beam would only cost $2 per intercept. The beam can also function as a standalone system or be used simultaneously with the dome. Because the beam costs so little, the IDF could deploy this defense in large numbers, which would immensely hamper the short-range missile threat.

As promising as the Iron Beam’s capabilities may seem, the weapon is still under development and may not see service with the IDF for years to come.

Maya Carlin is the Middle East Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. She is also an Analyst at the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has bylines in many publications including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel.

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