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F-15 ("Baz")

The production history for the F-15 began in 1970s with the original USAF A model. The aircraft then began to evolve, proceeding through USAF F-15 Multistage Improvement Program (MSIP), which led in the mid-1980s to the F-15C/Ds and to the F-15E variant in the late 1980s. The first FMS case featured delivery to Israel of F-15A/B aircraft in 1977, F-15C/D models in the 1980s, and early 1990s, and advanced F-15I models in the late 1990s. Saudi Arabia also procured F-15C/Ds in the early 1980s and 1990s, as well an advanced F-15S aircraft in the late 1990s. Japan procured F-15J/DJ aircraft for two decades.

The evolution of the US Air Force F-15 proceeded from the A/B model to a multirole E. The first FMS case featured delivery to Israel of F-15A/B aircraft in 1977, F-15C/D models in the 1980s, and early 1990s, and advanced F-15I models in the late 1990s. The first foreign development was Japans F-15J model. Then came Saudi Arabias S, Israels I, and South Koreas K. All featured new technologies later incorporated in USAF Eagles.

In 1974, the IAF assembled a test team for choosing an air dominance plane that would ensure the IAF's superiority over the Arab air forces for years to come. The candidates were the F-14 and the F-15, both of which were flown in the US by IAF pilots, who tested maneuverability, weapons systems and flight characteristics. The test team decided unanimously that the F-15 was a better plane, and one that could determine the shape of the battle and attain victory against every type of plane in the Arab arsenals. In July 1976, the F-15 Squadron's founding crew was sent to a retraining course in the US. The crew was headed by the man chosen to lead the squadron, later General (res.) Eytan Ben-Eliyahu - who was IAF Commander.

The F-15 program for Israel provides for a total of 51 aircraft, acquired under three LOAs. Initiated in 1976, the original program cost was estimated to be $1.5B. Although there are no offset/coproduction agreements included in the LOAs, the Government of Israel does provide certain items of government furnished equipment (GFE). Included in this category are: inboard and centerline pylons, MAU 12 bomb racks, AIM-7 launchers, UHF radios and control panels, 600 gallon fuel tanks, and other associated equipment. Peace Fox, provided for the purchase of 25 F-15 aircraft in prior years and another 15 for delivery beginning in August 1981.

On 10 December 1976 the first Baz (as they were already called) planes arrived in Israel. The fact that they landed on Friday evening, after the start of the Sabbath, caused a political crisis that toppled the first Rabin government. Israel discovered problems in the the engines for the F-15 and F- 16, and it provided American engineers with ideas on how to deal with the difficulties. In all, the Israelis made twenty-seven substantial recommendations for changes in the F-15.

By 2016, the IAF F-15s had shot down 40 planes, all of them Syrian. On June 27th 1979, Brig. Gen. (Res.) Moshe shot down a Syrian MiG-21 in Lebanese skies. This was the first time a MiG-21 had been shot down, anywhere in the world. On February 13th 1981 an IAF Baz used an air-to-air missile to shoot down a Syrian MiG-25. Again, this was a worldwide first.

On June 7th 1981, six F-15s escorted the eight F-16's which attacked the Iraqi nuclear reactor in Operation 'Opera'. The F-15's mission was to provide the attackers with defensive cover against enemy planes.

The Lebanon war - Operation 'Peace for the Galilee' - reinforced the F-15's reputation as an interceptor. Around 30 enemy MiG-21's and MiG-23's were shot down during the fighting. Brig. Gen. (Res.) Moshe: "we kept the Syrians from flying in Lebanon, and did it in the best possible fashion. Every flight of Egyptian planes that tried to cross the lines and attack our forces in Lebanon was shot down. Sometimes a single plane out of the flight got to go back and tell the others the story of what had happened. We had a field day, basically, shooting down practically everything that flew. The MiG-21 and MiG-23, which formed the backbone of the Syrian air force, were crushed. As far as our squadron was concerned, the war was more like a shooting range."

Establishment of a second F-15 squadron was originally scheduled for June 6th 1982, but that turned out to be the day on which the war in Lebanon broke out. The planes were already on their way to Israel when fighting began, and they were immediately diverted to reinforce the existing squadron. When the war was over, the new squadron was established.

In the summer of 1983, an Israeli F-15 staged a mock dogfight with Skyhawks for training purposes, near Nahal Tzin in the Negev desert. During the exercise, one of the Skyhawks miscalculated and collided forcefully with the F-15's wing root. The F-15's pilot was aware that the wing had been seriously damaged, but decided to try and land in a nearby airbase. It was only after he had landed, when he climbed out of the cockpit and looked backward, that the pilot realized what had happened: the wing had been completely torn off the plane, and he had landed the plane with only one wing attached. A few months later, the damaged F-15 had been given a new wing, and returned to operational duty in the squadron. The engineers at McDonnell Douglas had a hard time believing the story of the one-winged landing: as far as their planning models were concerned, this was an impossibility.

On October of 1985, the IDF carried out the longest-ranged attack in its history - Operation 'Wooden Leg' . F-15s attacked and destroyed PLO headquarters at Hamam a-Shat on the shores of Tunis, in retaliation for the murder of three Israeli seafarers at Larnaka, Cyprus, earlier that year. 90% of the base's area was destroyed; dozens of terrorists were killed, and many others injured.

In October 1993 the IAF received 25 F-15s from the USAF surplus. The first 5 planes arrived from the States after an one day stopover in Europe, and proceeded to an IAF airbase in central Israel.

In 1995 Heyl Ha'avir embarked upon the the 'Baz-2000' program for improving the F-15s and readying them for battlefield of the 21st century. The program will involve thorough changes in the avionics systems (expected cost - $90 million) and is to be completed in the first years of the new decade. The improvements include upgrading the cockpit controls that display data received from the radar and additional sensors that the plane is fitted with. The old weapons computer will be replaced by a newer model, of the kind that will be installed in the F-15I's. At the end of the improvement process, the F-15s will be fitted with avionics on a level similar to that of the F-16's.

Eight F-15s from the 173rd Fighter Wing, Oregon Air National Guard, touched down at Tel Nof Israeli air base in Rehovot, Israel in the first ever active ramp-to-ramp transfer of aircraft September 15, 2016. The event was the result of approximately two years of concept development, planning, and execution by Airmen from Kingsley Field, Department of Defense officials, Foreign Military Sales (FMS), the Israeli air force, and many more. Several of the jets were scheduled for retirement and they were going to be taken to the bone yard; one of the options that came up was FMS.

Once the jets were on the ramp at Tel Nof air base, Kingsley maintainers quickly went to work to transfer the aircraft over to the Israeli air force personnel, who will now take the aircraft and start the process of converting it into the F-15I, which they refer to as "The Baz."





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