An Israeli F-35 jet fighter flies above the border area with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on October 9, 2023.

An Israeli F-35 jet fighter flies above the border area with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on October 9, 2023. JACK GUEZ / AFP via Getty Images

US rushed new F-35 capabilities to Israel after Hamas attack

Pentagon officials say they’re delivering “unprecedented surge support to F-35 users in Israel.”

The Pentagon gave Israel special computer files with detailed information about enemy threats to help the country’s fleet of F-35s, which it is using against Hamas. 

Following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the U.S. turned around F-35 mission data files to Israel in a “week, week and half,” Pentagon acquisition chief Bill LaPlante said Tuesday during a House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee hearing. Mission data files are essentially the brains of the jet, an extensive data system with information on threats.

Israel’s fleet of F-35s have performed “absolutely outstanding” in the war against Hamas, F-35 Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Michael Schmidt said during the hearing, noting the plane’s “high” mission capability rates in the Middle East, something that the Pentagon's F-35 operators have struggled with. 

“We have added some capabilities to that airplane in a very short period of time and our team is doing everything we can to continue to move the ball forward there,” Schmidt said. 

As Pentagon officials tout the efficacy of the F-35 during the war, the death toll in Gaza has reached over 18,000 since Oct. 7, according to the Gaza-based ministry of health, an agency in the Hamas-controlled territory.

While not much is known about how exactly Israel is using its F-35s in the war, the Israeli Defense Force confirmed it has used one of the fighters to shoot down a cruise missile. 

“The F-35 Joint Program Office has moved at a breakneck speed to support our closest partner and ally in the Middle East, Israel. They've done this by accelerating F-35 weapons capabilities and increasing spare parts supply rates in their fight against the atrocities committed by Hamas,” said HASC subcommittee chairman Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va.

The Pentagon said it’s speeding up maintenance support.

“Notably in Israel, we see surging sustainment support in operations that maximizes fleet readiness, with 35 of 39 Israeli Air Force F-35A aircraft and exceeds expectations in combat,” LaPlante said in prepared remarks. 

Asked about the JPO’s role in providing F-35 spare parts and capabilities to Israel, Schmidt told reporters, “We are always trying to provide spare parts and capabilities to every one of our customers, right? They're all extremely important.”

Schmidt told lawmakers he spoke with Israel’s chief of staff on Monday, adding that the F-35 program office is going to “learn a lot” from seeing F-35s used in combat. 

“They are very satisfied with what their performance from a sustainment enterprise has given them. I think we could learn a lot from them in terms of the quickness with which they're turning airplanes, all of the things we're learning ourselves with moving parts around the world in support of a conflict,” Schmidt said.