Israel Air Force [IAF] - Modernization
The mainstays of the combat element of some 500 fighter aircraft were of four types: the F-16 multirole tactical fighter, the first of which became operational in Israel in 1980; the larger and heavier F-15 fighter designed to maintain air superiority, first delivered in 1976; the F-4 Phantom, a two-seater fighter and attack aircraft, delivered to Israel between 1969 and 1977; and the Kfir, an Israeli-manufactured fighter plane first delivered to the air force in 1975, and based on the French-designed Mirage III. The air force also kept in service as a reserve older A-4 Skyhawks first acquired in 1966. All of these models were expected to be retained in the inventory into the new century, although the Skyhawks would be used primarily for training and as auxiliary aircraft.
The air force inventory also included a large number of electronic countermeasure and airborne early warning aircraft, cargo transports and utility aircraft, trainers, and helicopters. Attack helicopters such as the AH-64 Apache, Hughes Defender and AH-1 Cobra add a new dimension to the land battle. Sikorsky and Bell helicopters transport troops and equipment while performing assault, medevac and rescue missions in both war and peace. The IAF is interested in acquiring squadrons of 24 Apache Long-Bow combat helicopters - double the number originally planned. In the context of the deal, existing IAF Apaches will be upgraded to include the advanced Long-Bow elements including radar and missile systems. The transport fleet includes the Boeing 707 and Hercules C-130 aircraft as well as the locally produced Arava short take off and landing (STOL) transport. Boeing 707s had been converted for in-flight refueling of F-15s and F-16s.
Israel's project to design and build a fourth-generation indigenous jet fighter, the Lavi (lion cub), was cancelled in 1987 because of expense. Instead, Israel was to take delivery of seventy-five advanced F-16C and F-16D fighters produced in the United States. In July 1999 the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, chose to purchase the F-16I, to modernize the IAF. In a parallel development, all the IAF long-range F-15I planes purchased in 1998, had already entered service. Israel at first ordered 21 of the F-15I aircraft, and later increased its order to 25. The process for delivering F-16Is to Israel began in earnest in February, 2004. Israel expected to receive 102 F-16Is in total. [In American nomenclature, the "I" stands for Israel, though some in Israel suggest it stands for Iran, the intended target of these ultra-long range aircraft]
FAR Technologies developed an implementation for adapting existing fuel tanks to be carried on F-16 weapon stations. The installation of fuel lines flows fuel from the outboard weapon stations (3 and 7 on the F-16) to fuel tanks pylons, (stations 4 and 6 on the F-16). IAI/Lahav is working on the necessary adaptations for Israeli F-16s. The installation, which can be applied in only two hours, enable the F-16 to carry a total of five external fuel tanks, adding 25% to the mission radius on attack missions. Israel's IMI offers a higher capacity 600 Gallon external fuel tanks for the F-16, which can replace the 370 gallon tanks.
On November 17, 1999 the Government of Israel requested a possible sale of 700 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) tail kits, MK-84 inert bombs, testing, spare and repair parts, support equipment, contractor engineering and technical support, and other related elements of program support. The estimated cost is $45 million.
On 18 July 2002, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Israel of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) tail kits as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $27 million. The Government of Israel requested a possible sale of 1,000 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) tail kits, 50 MK-84 inert bombs, testing, spare and repair parts, support equipment, contractor engineering and technical support, and other related elements of program support. The estimated cost is $27 million.
On 1 June 2004, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Israel of Joint Direct Attack Munitions as well as associated equipment and services. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $319 million. Specifically the Government of Israel has requested a possible sale of: 5,000 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) tail kits (which include 2,500 GBU-31 for MK-84, 500 GBU-31 for BLU-109, 500 GBU-32 for MK-83, and 1,500 GBU-30 for MK-82 bombs).
In August 2015 Israel completed nine years of upgrade work on its fleet of 23 CH-53 helicopters, with the Sikorsky-manufactured helicopters now reportedly capable of flying to 2025. The aircraft were upgraded by the Israeli Air Force at approximately $2 million per unit, reportedly a fraction of the cost that outsourcing the work would have entailed.
One matter that needed to be resolved as a matter of urgency concerned the array of storm transport helicopters, due to safety issues in the dangerously obsolete "Yasur" helicopter (CH-53). There were two candidates to replace the "Yasur": Boeing offers the "Chinook" (CH-47F) based on the old assault helicopter whose price and maintenance price are relatively cheap, while Lockheed Martin offered the new CH-53K, which is equipped with advanced equipment allowing an operational flight in extreme conditions. Its cargo carrying capacity and other performance also exceed those of the Chinook, but its price exceeds $100 million and a flight time of $ 14,000 / hour.
Defense Minister Gantz further complicated the dilemma when he demanded to add to the future mix of heavy helicopters also the V-22 - a helicopter / high-speed aircraft that changes its rotor angle and greatly improves the Air Force's ability to fly fighters to special operations and rescue pilots forced to abandon at long range. In the Air Force there are opponents of this aircraft, which complicates and micromanages the maintenance system, but among the Greens, especially in the commando units, it has many followers.
On July 30, 2021 the US State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Israel of CH-53K Heavy Lift Helicopters with Support and related equipment for an estimated cost of $3.4 billion. The Government of Israel requested to buy up to eighteen (18) CH-53K Heavy Lift Helicopters; up to sixty (60) T408-GE-400 Engines (54 installed, 6 spares); and up to thirty-six (36) Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation Systems (EGI) with Selective Availability/Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM). Also included is communication equipment; GAU-21 .50 caliber Machine Guns; Mission Planning System; facilities study, design and construction; spare and repair parts; support and test equipment; publications and technical documentation; aircrew and maintenance training; U.S. Government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics and program support. The total estimated cost is $3.4 billion.
The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability. This proposed sale is consistent with those objectives. The proposed sale will improve the Israeli Air Force's capability to transport armored vehicles, personnel, and equipment to support distributed operations. Israel will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense. Israel will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces.
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