Last week, the news of the delivery of two Israeli F-35 fighter jets to Azerbaijan became the main topic of foreign media. Despite the news was provided by the UK-based Arabic news site Elaph, most foreign media outlets referred to the article spread by OC-MEDIA.

Two Israeli Air Force F-35 planes landed in Baku, the Elaph reported, referring to the high-ranking Israeli officials.

Faktyoxla Lab. has checked the accuracy of this information.

First, let’s give a brief reference about OC-Media. Open Caucasus Media publishes news, commentary, multimedia, and investigations from the North and South Caucasus. It was created in 2017 by journalists Mariam Nikuradze and Dominik K. Cagara. Currently, the site publishes materials in English and Russian.

The site prepares and disseminates news from three Caucasian countries. The website’s donors are the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the Open Society Foundations (Soros), the National Endowment for Democracy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, the Thomson Reuters Foundation and several small foundations.

This is what is written in the “About Us” section of the website: “We pride ourselves on our commitment to ethical journalism and our core values: Integrity - We are politically independent; our funding (from donors and our readers) is conditional on maintaining editorial independence and a commitment to our values. In our reporting, we strive to be unbiased, accurate, honest, and to follow the truth wherever it leads.

Justice - We are committed to social and economic justice for all. Peace - In a region touched by intercommunal and interstate conflict, we stand by our commitment to peace. Inclusivity - We stand for equality for all and give voice to all the diverse people of the Caucasus.

Cooperation - With our network of partners in the media and other sectors, we believe in cooperation over competition.”

The website leaves no doubt that it operates as a professional media organization.

However, the article we are talking about now contradicts the principles mentioned in the “About us” section of the website.

Let’s pay attention to other points.

The article begins with the following sentence: “Two advanced Israeli F-35 stealth fighter jets have been ‘permanently stationed’ in Azerbaijan, UK-based Arabic news site Elaph has reported citing a senior Israeli source.” Thus, the UK-based Arabic news site is the first, and the anonymous Israeli military is the second inaccurate, unprofessional source.

The most interesting are the confessions of the website, which considers itself professional. The article notes that “OC Media was not able to independently verify the report.” Interestingly, why and for whom was it necessary to disseminate information quickly, without clarification? After all, this is not professionalism.

“In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine cited four senior American diplomats and military intelligence officers as saying that the US believed Israel had been granted access to an airbase in Azerbaijan,” reads the article.

It adds that “A 2009 US Embassy cable leaked via Wikileaks reported that the two countries enjoyed even closer relations than publicly admitted, quoting President Aliyev as describing relations ‘like an iceberg, nine-tenths of it is below the surface’. The cable said that ‘both rank Iran as an existential security threat’.”

At the end of the article, there is a sentence “OC Media has reached out to the Israeli Defence Forces for comment.” This is the third big mistake made by a serious media organization in an article.

The author of this inaccurate article is Editor-in-Chief Robin Fabbro. The report, written by Robin Fabbro, was originally based on information from the UK-based Arabic news site Elaph. However, in professional journalism, combining two styles of news delivery (referring to another source) and the product of the author’s imagination is not an acceptable approach. In particular, it is against professional ethics to prepare a report with such unofficial sources, and to add the author’s signature at the end. Mr. Fabbro wrote and published on his website last year the information provided by the Armenian side about the staged shooting in Hadrut without any grounds or serious arguments. The video has been repeatedly proven to be fabricated. A self-proclaimed professional website should not make such a mistake.

The Arabic-language website Elaph, cited by OC-MEDIA, is based in the UK and was founded by Saudi businessman Othman Al Omeir. The site is banned in many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia. Majid al-Halabi, the author of the article “Elaph special: Israel and Azerbaijan in the same trench against Iran” is a well-known Israeli journalist, a Druze by nationality.

The article states that Israel will stand by its ally in the event of any “Conquerors of Khaybar” exercise by Iran and any other intervention on the border with Azerbaijan, preventing any air or ground attack. The article also notes the successful military cooperation between Israel and Azerbaijan since 2016. At the end of the article, unspecified information was given: “The source notes that there are two F-35 fighter jets in Azerbaijan on a permanent basis, and if necessary, the number of fighters can be increased.”

Let’s find out why Azerbaijan needs F-35s in general.

The F-35 is a family of fifth-generation invisible fighter jets created under the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) project, the most ambitious program in aviation history. The main creator and manufacturer of the aircraft is the American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin. The F-35 fighter-bomber was funded by the US, the UK, Australia, Turkey, Norway, Denmark and Italy. It is currently present in the armies of very few countries.

So far, three series of the aircraft have been released. These are F-35A, F-35B and F-35C. The aircraft is equipped with AFAR AN/APG-81 multifunction radar system. It is capable of detecting targets on the ground as well as in the air. The maximum speed of the aircraft is 1,700 km/h. The F-35C can cover a maximum of 2,520 kilometers. Unlike the S-35, the F-35C can reach a maximum altitude of 18,200 meters. The current price of the F-35C is $93.3 million (source).

As for Israel, according to the Israeli Air Force, the last batch of F-35I (ADIR) aircraft entered the Nevatim Air Base in 2019. These three fighters have been included in the 116th Squadron of the Israeli Air Force since 2020. According to the Jewish Press, under a contract signed in 2010, Lockheed Martin sent 27 fighters to the Israeli Air Force. By 2024, the number will reach 50. According to military sources, the US Defense Department has informed Congress that it has sold twenty-five F-35A aircraft under the Foreign Military Sales program. The US government earned $15.2 billion from these transactions. (source)

Due to the high prices of the planes, the media has repeatedly reported misunderstandings and disagreements between partner companies and countries. In this case, Israel’s donation of two planes to Azerbaijan doesn’t seem realistic. There are several reasons for this.

First, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said that such information was not true. Speaking to Bizim.Media, Defense Ministry spokesperson Anar Eyvazov said the information was incorrect.

“The Defense Ministry has not yet made an official statement. Various information is spread in this form, but it is provocative,” he noted.

Secondly, Azerbaijan has never hid what it received from any country, and no country can interfere in the internal affairs of Azerbaijan. Retired colonel, military expert Uzeyir Jafarov told the media that, in general, why does Azerbaijan needs to buy F-35 fighter jets? “Will Azerbaijan conduct war against Russia and Iran? Maybe in the future, if necessary, we can buy. At that time, no one can forbid us to do so. Azerbaijan will receive JF-17 fighter jets from brotherly Pakistan. There were talks about their acquisition and we did not hide it.”

Third, hiding such a large weapon is impossible. Last year, during the war, President Ilham Aliyev spoke to CNN International about the Turkish Air Force’s F-16 fighter jets. In his address to the Azerbaijani people, the president also clarified the question asked by foreign journalists: “I agree with you when you say on the ground. F-16s came to Azerbaijan for military exercise. Last year Azerbaijan and Turkey had ten joint military exercises. Turkey is our ally and it is common here to have military exercises, including air force. By the way this year due to the pandemic we had only two military exercises. One of them was just before the Armenian attack on Azerbaijan happened. So, F-16s are on the ground, they are not flying. They are not in any way participating in any kind of battle.”

In other words, at a time when modern technologies are so advanced, it is impossible to hide or keep even ordinary weapons, let alone two fighter jets. There are radars, satellites and other tracking techniques to detect this. President Ilham Aliyev appealed to Iran at a meeting with representatives of the Khojavend district community on October 9: “Some Iranian provincial mullah recently opened his mouth and fabricated slander against Azerbaijan. When I was informed, I said not to pay attention. We can’t pay attention to the words of some provincial mullah. Who is he after all? Just don't pay attention to that. Then, unfortunately, some government officials started making unfounded accusations against us – Azerbaijan has allegedly brought Israel to these regions. Let them open their eyes wide and look. Where did they see Israel here? Not a single person lives here. There is no building here. Is there evidence? No. If there is no evidence, everyone should be held accountable for what they say. We cannot allow anyone to fabricate baseless slander against us.”

Fourth, since Azerbaijan gained independence, no country’s military base, militants or aircraft has been stationed in the country, except for 5 Turkish F-16 training aircraft of the Turkish Air Force and Russian peacekeepers temporarily stationed in the region under the November 10 agreement.

Finally, we would like to mention another interesting point.

In Turkey, there is a strong pro-Iranian political figure Nuraddin Shirin, the director general of the anti-Israel Quds TV, who is known as a journalist responsible for Iran’s policy of spreading Shiism. Shirin, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for promoting Iran and Hezbollah, has always praised the Iranian Islamic Revolution and Khomeini in his magazines Istiglal, Tawhid, Shahadat and Salam. Nuraddin Shirin voiced baseless opinions against Turkey and Azerbaijan with the theses received from Ghom city in Iran. Shirin is more noticeable among the media representatives who are abusing the temporary tension between Iran and Azerbaijan in recent days and showing a provocative position. With what? With slander without reference to any substantiated fact. To whom? For example, in the last program, Shirin referred to repeatedly calling it “foreign media.”

He was referring exactly to this article. If you pay attention to the screenshot, the above-mentioned fake news is displayed to the guests.

Now think for yourself, where is the logic when Shirin, who said that “the leader of the terrorist PKK Abdullah Ocalan should be released,” cites a website created by the Soros Foundation in Georgia as the main source?

How can the views of OC-Media and a pro-Iranian journalist coincide? The answer is very simple.

Conclusion: The information disseminated by OC-Media with reference to the UK-based Arabic-language website is unfounded, it has no reference to any facts. The article is biased and unprofessional because it was disseminated without reference to the source. The information about Israeli fighter jets in Azerbaijan is false.