The Kfir (Hebrew for lion cub) is basically a redesigned Mirage 5 with a canard mounted on the air intake. The wings are low-mounted, delta-shaped with a sawtooth in the leading edges. There are small canards are mounted on the air intakes. There is one turbojet engine inside fuselage. There are semicircular air intakes alongside the fuselage. There is a large, single exhaust. The fuselage is tube-shaped with a long, solid, pointed nose. The body widens at the air intakes. There is a bubble canopy flush with the spine. The tail has no tail flats. The fin is swept-back and tapered with a prominent step in the leading edge.
First flown in June 1973, the Kfir-C1 was in essence the airframe of the Dassault-Breguet Mirage III/5 series mated to the General Electric J79 afterburning turbojet and fitted with a suite of Israeli electronics. The type was designed after the manufacturer had gained experience with the Nesher (eagle), which was an unlicensed copy of the Mirage IIICJ with an equally unlicensed Atar turbojet, produced mainly for Israeli service but later exported as the Dagger.
The Kfir-C1 entered only limited production (27 aircraft), with two squadrons equipped from 1974 pending the introduction of more advanced derivatives. The first Kfir was handed over to the IAF in front of a large audience that had assembled for the ceremony at Israel Aircraft Industries' plant on the eve of Israel's Independence Day in 1975. The Kfirs that rolled out of the production line were first assigned to the famed 'First Fighter' Squadron, which had a tradition of being home to Heyl Ha'avir's first-line planes (from the Avia Messerschmitt, through the Spitfire, Mustang and Mystere, to the Mirage III). They were also assigned to a fighter squadron that had been established before the 1956 'Kadesh' Operation, and had been deploying Howards, Mosquitos, Mystere IVAs and Skyhawks. In the years that followed, the Kfirs saw service in a number of different IAF squadrons.
The Kfir-C2, introduced in 1976 after a first flight in 1974, was a developed version of the Kfir-C2 designed to keep the type viable against all conceivable threats well into the 1990s. The result is a warplane with formidable combat capabilities plus short-field performance thanks to the sustained manoeuvrability and control effectiveness resulting from the aerodynamic developments. The type is distinguisable from the Kfir-C1 by its dogtoothed outer wing panels, small undernose strakes and, most importantly of all, swept delta canard foreplanes.
The Kfir was given its first chance to prove its mettle on November 9th 1977. Kfirs were sent to attack Tel ‘Azia, a terrorist training base in Lebanon, and carried out their task with great success. In 1979 an 'air war' began in the skies over Lebanon. The Syrians no longer contented themselves with sending out ground troops, and began to make their presence felt in the air. On June 27th the first dogfight took place. On that day, F-15s and Kfirs were assigned to cover other planes that were attacking terrorist targets between Lake Kar'un and the port of Sidon. In the dogfight that ensued, five Syrian MiG-21s were shot down, and the Kfir registered its first kill - the only one to date.
The Kfir-C7, the definitive single-seat version introduced in 1983, is based on the Kfir-C2 with a specially adapted version of the J79-GEJ1E with some 1,000 lb (454 kg) more afterburning thrust. The type has two extra hardpoints and a number of advanced features including capability for the carriage and use of 'smart' weapons, Elta EL/M-2021B pulse-Dopplar radar, a revised cockpit with more sophisticated electronics and HOTAS (Hands On Throttel And Stick) controls and provision for inflight-refueling. Maximum take-off weight is increased by 3,395 lb (1,540 kg), but combat radius and (more importantly) thrust-to-weight ratio are improved to a marked degree.
In the attacks against Lebanon, from the Litani Operation up to 'Peace for the Galilee', the Kfirs participated actively and proved their ability for pinpoint strikes at targets including bridges, structures and gun emplacements, for which they made use of their sophisticated systems. The Kfir was deployed in Operation 'Accountability' (1995) as well, and used against dozens of terrorist targets.
The Kfir registered success abroad, as well. It has been sold to several countries, and was even leased to the US Navy and Marine Corps for use in their 'Aggressor' Squadrons, where its excellent performance in aerial combat and low operating costs made it an ideal choice for helping American pilots train against a simulated enemy threat. Kfir-C1 fighters with small canards but no armament were delivered to the US Navy and Marine Corps with the designation F-21A for use as "aggressor" aircraft in dissimilar air combat training.
On May 18, 2015 ATAC, a private company comprising the world's only operational corporate fleet of 25 supersonic fighter and attack aircraft plus 30 highly-qualified, former US military fighter instructor pilots, was awarded a five-year, 20,000 flight-hour contract to provide live airborne adversary training, pilot training and threat simulation to address operational Fleet training requirements for the U.S. Navy. The Contract Air Services program, administered by Naval Air Systems Command, provides contractor-owned and operated aircraft to train ship-board and airborne weapon systems operators on fighter aircraft operation and employment, countering potential enemy airborne threats, and electronic warfare / electronic attack operations. ATAC is also involved in pilot ground training, research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E), operational evaluation of weapons systems, and range support. In addition to the Navy, Air Force and Marines, customers include other Department of Defense and non-DoD agencies, NATO and Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customers.
ATAC flies subsonic and supersonic fighter aircraft to provide Navy airborne training services from four primary locations in the continental US, Hawaii and Japan. The company flies modified F-21/C-2 Kfirs, a supersonic fighter aircraft formerly flown by the Israeli Air Force, and the British-designed Mk.58 Hunter which were purchased from Switzerland. The company employs former US fighter instructor pilots and TOPGUN instructors from the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to operate their aircraft.
The Naval Air Systems Command Commercial Air Services Contract submissions were accepted late in 2013 but just recently awarded. ATAC had been the incumbent service provider, having supported Navy tactical air services since the late 1990's. At least four other competitors were involved in the competition.
The company is headquartered in Virginia with flying bases in California, Hawaii, Japan and Germany. Due to the high cost of operating military aircraft, the company states their support of training missions saves more than $100 million in annual training O&M costs, or in excess of $500 million over the last five years. ATAC is the only civilian tactical airborne services provider approved to train at the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) and the Navy Strike Air Warfare Center, and also is the only civilian entity approved to fly against U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors. ATAC also supports the USAF – European theater with airborne training as well.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|