Key Point: The possability of the hit may be less important than the paranoia the rumor has caused.
Did a Russian anti-aircraft missile hit one of Israel’s new F-35 stealth fighters back in late 2017?
Pro-Russian media are claiming that an Israeli F-35I was hit and damaged by a Russian-made S-200 surface-to-air missile during an Israeli air strike in Syria earlier this month. Israel says one of its F-35s was damaged—after colliding with a bird.
The story begins on October 16, when Israel announced that its aircraft had struck a Syrian SAM battery near Damascus that had fired two hours earlier on Israeli reconnaissance planes flying over Lebanon. The attack damaged the missile battery, and no Israeli aircraft were hit, according to Israel. Coincidentally or not, the incident happened the same day that Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, arrived in Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
However, Southfront.org, a website that covers the Russian military and its intervention in the Syrian Civil War, suggested a different story. “According to the available information, the Syrian Defense Forces used a S-200 missile against the Israeli warplane,” Southfront claimed.
Southfront could not resist pointing out that a much-vaunted F-35 stealth fighter had been hit by a missile that dates back to the 1960s. “This Soviet-made missile is the most advanced long range anti-aircraft system operated by the Syrian military. Even in this case, it’s old-fashioned in terms of modern warfare.”