In the past few days, the United States did a bit of saber-rattling by flying its newest stealth fighter, the F-35, over its Special Operations bases in Syria. This is the American version of daring the bully in the schoolyard to test him one more time. It was probably no coincidence that the F-35 flew near where Russian forces are trying to box in the American Special Operations troops which are only a few kilometers away.
The Special Ops Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) in Syria and Iraq took to Twitter (doesn’t everyone these days?) and released a few photos showing the F-35 above Syria over the al-Hasakah and Deir Ezzor governorates.
“A USAF F-35A Lightning II fighter jet flies near the $ATG in Syria, April 10, 2020. Coalition and partner forces continue to strike at extremist organizations in Syria despite COVID-19, reflecting the world-wide unity to see an enduring defeat delivered against Daesh,” the U.S. military account posted.
The Russian military was no doubt keeping an eye on the overflight from their base at the Qamishli Airport in eastern Syria.
But the United States aren’t the only ones to use F-35s over Syria.
The Brits conducted an airstrike using F-35s back in June 2019 as the stealth fighters accompanied Typhoon attack aircraft. One interesting fact that was noticed by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) was that the most sophisticated Russian anti-aircraft systems, the S-300 and S-400 systems, which are placed in Syria, seemed unable to locate the F-35s on their radar.
According to unnamed sources from the IDF, Israeli F-35s entered Syrian air space and flew for several hundred kilometers without being detected by S-300 or S-400 systems. No Russian or Syrian aircraft were scrambled to attempt and intercept Israel’s stealth fighters.
The Syrians also have purchased the Iranian BAVAR-373 air defense system. The Iranians claim that the system can detect stealth F-35 and U.S. F-22 fighters from a distance of 150-180 kilometers. However, this statement seems suspect, since the IAF has conducted with impunity a number of airstrikes, using F35s, against Iranian-proxy targets.
The Israelis have claimed that for about 5 years now F-35s have been taking off from Israel to Tehran and back without being detected or without needing to refuel. This would put the stealth fighter’s air superiority in another realm. There were even rumors (which seem a tad far-fetched), that the IAF conducted a test stealth flight from Israel to Tehran and back without being noticed.
So, while the most expensive military defense project in U.S. history came under a lot of criticism, it seems, at least for the time being, that it is performing entirely as advertised.