Over the weekend, you may have heard about the vicious aerial battle between Israel and Syrian-Iranian forces. That battle was triggered when Israel shot down an Iranian-made UAV that had breached Israeli airspace and ended with an IDF F-16I being shot down.
An Israeli F-16I Sufa. One was lost during a clash with Iranian and Syrian forces. (Israeli Defense Force photo)
According to a report from the Times of Israel, the wandering drone that started the firefight was a Saeghe. That drone is a knockoff of the RQ-170 Sentinel, a stealthy drone used by the United States. In 2011, a Sentinel was captured relatively intact by the Iranians after it went down in their territory. The RQ-170 is said to resemble a miniature B-2 Spirit.
An Israeli AH-64 Apache was credited with downing the Iranian drone. The Israeli response involved a number of fighters targeting Syrian air-defense positions and Iranian installations. The Iranians and Syrians fired over two dozen surface-to-air missiles and downed the F-16I. The plane's crew managed to safely eject over Northern Israel, but one of the pilots was seriously injured and is now being treated in a Haifa hospital. This marks the first loss of an F-16I and Israel's first loss of an aircraft in combat since 1982.
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the F-16I is a two-seat multi-role fighter custom-designed for the needs of the Israeli Defense Forces. It is designed for long range, with a combat radius of 2,100 kilometers, has a top speed of Mach 2, and can use advanced weapons, like the Python 5 and AMRAAM air-to-air missiles and GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions. Israel purchased 102 of these aircraft.
An Israeli Air Force F-16 from Ramon Air Base, Israel, moves into refueling position July 17, 2009, over the Nevada Test and Training Range during Red Flag 09-4. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)
Israel also operates roughly 120 F-16C/D Fighting Falcons, which serve as the backbone of the Israeli Air Force. The Israelis also operate a mix of F-15C/D/I fighters. The F-15C/D Eagles are designed for air-superiority missions, while the F-15I is a customized version of the F-15E Strike Eagle.