Tag Archives: Israel

Israeli Lavi-force at full strength, T-50 criticized

The Israeli Air Force now has its full complement of 30 Leonardo Finmeccanica M-346 Lavi advanced jet trainers operational. The final one has been commissioned this week.

With the new jets, the skies of Israel will be free of the Skyhawk – the legendary A-4 that was the Lavi’s predecessor after having been commissioned in the 1960s.

The commissioning of the full 30 jets – known in Italy as the Master – went with some bad mouthing on the biggest competitor: the Korean Aerospace Industries T-50 Golden Eagle. “At the end of the day, the Italian plane was better than the Korean one. We choose wisely for the Lavi,” Israel’s head of procurement of the Ministry of Defence – Shmuel Tzuker, said to The Times of Israel.

USA’s T-X program

An interesting remark, since a derivative of the T-50 is also in the running to replace the US Air Force’s Northrop T-38 Talon advanced jet fighters. This Lockheed Martin/KIA T-50A is also facing the heat of the M-346, enroled in the USA’s T-X program as the Raytheon/Leonardo Finmeccanica T-100. According to Israel the M-346 is better in quality of training, safety, maintenance, specs and costs of operation.

So far, 68 M-346 Lead-In Fighter Trainer versions have been ordered by the air forces of Italy (18), Singapore (12), Israel (30) and Poland (8). But there are new markets at the horizon.

Combat M-346

A noticeable development which may also interest countries like Israel and Poland is the recently presented armed version of the Italian advanced trainer. At the 2016 Farnborough International Airshow Leonardo Finmeccanica showed of its M-346FT (Fighter Trainer) with light multi-role capabilities including laser guided bombs and air-to-air missiles. Airheadsfly.com already went inside deep at Lecce Airbase, aka the Master’s nest.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com special contributor Marcel Burger
Featured image: The Israeli M-346 Lavi (“Lion”) (Image © Leonardo Finmeccanica)

The armed M-346FT development (Image © Leonardo Finmeccanica)
The armed M-346FT development (Image © Leonardo Finmeccanica)

F-35I ‘Adir’ for Israel unveiled

The very first F-35 for Israel was unveiled on Wednesday 22 June during a roll out ceremony at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth facility. The aircraft is the first of 33 so far ordered by Israel, with more certainly on the way. The Israeli version of the F-35 is designated F-35I and named ‘Adir’ – Hebrew for mighty one.

The F-35I will be a special breed of the Lockheed Martin F-35A, with Israeli-developed and installed mission equipment. Israel previously choose a similar path with the F-15I Ra’am (Thunder) and F-16I Sufa (Storm). Contrary to the spectacular desert camouflage paint job on those jets, the first F-35I wore a standard grey camouflage scheme upon roll out in Fort Worth

The first Adirs should arrive in country in December for customization by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Next, the jets will be send to Nevatim airbase in the Negev desert.

The newly delivered Leonardo Finmeccanica M-346 Master jet trainer should prepare new Israeli Air Force (IAF) pilots for the F-35I. The last of 30 of those was delivered earlier in June.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest

Featured image: Israel’s Minister of Defense Avigdor Liberman views the cockpit of the first Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35A Lightning II  (Image © Beth Steel, Lockheed Martin)

(Image © Lockheed Martin)
(Image © Lockheed Martin)

Fighter jet deals Middle East hang in the balance

Fighter jet deals worth billions of US dollars hang in the balance in the Middle East as they have been doing for a number of years, but things could be moving along now following the apparent ease between Iran and the West. Or did Kuwait and Qatar already make up their mind?

It is no secret that Kuwait is looking to purchase 28 Boeing Super Hornets to replace its fleet of older F/A-18C/D Hornets, and that Qatar has been seeking to buy up to 72 variants of Boeing’s F-15 Strike Eagle.

Production

Both orders would come in handy to keep production lines in the US open, particularly the Super Hornet line. A batch of Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) EA-18 Growlers is now in manufacturing and after that it will likely be the end of production for the F-18 Hornet and its variants.

Unless of course Kuwait indeed orders its Super Hornets. A deal never seemed close however, and the reason could very well be that the US did not want to spoil improving relations with shia-Islam orientied Iran by supplying advanced warfare machines to opposing sunni countries such as Qatar and Kuwait.

A Kuwait Air Force F/A-18C Hornet, seen in the UK in 1993 during delivery to Kuwait. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A Kuwait Air Force F/A-18C Hornet, seen in the UK in 1993 during delivery to Kuwait. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

Israel

That standpoint may change now that the relationship with Iran seems on its way to normalization. On the other hand however, there’s also Israel to be taken into account. That country upgrading its F-15I Ra’am (Thunder) jets and won’t be very happy to see more Arab states getting similar capabilities, also considering the fact that Saudi Arabia already has an impressive fleet of F-15s – and another 84 new-build F-15SAs (Saudi Advanced) are on their way between now and 2019. The US may be sensitive to this also.

Rafale & Typhoon

But perhaps Qatar and Kuwait have already made up their mind. Since requesting F-15s, the former in April signed to buy 24 French Dassault Rafale jets while the latter eyes 28 Italian-made Eurofighter Typhoon jets. A contract for those was rumoured to be signed last December, but still awaits signatures.

The coming months should tell if there will ever be Qatari F-15s and Kuwaiti Super Hornets. And finally, if there will ever be Iraqi Air Force Mirage 2000s, as the United Arab Emirates are reportedly looking to hand over some of their Mirages to Baghdad.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: An F-15E in max ‘fuel to noise’ mode. (Image © Elmer van Hest)

A brand new Eurofighter Typhoon awaits delivery. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A brand new Eurofighter Typhoon awaits delivery. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
Rafale jets were recently delivered to Egypt. (Image © Anthony Pecchi / Dassault)
Rafale jets were recently delivered to Egypt. (Image © Anthony Pecchi / Dassault)

First Israeli F-35 ‘Adir’ ‘in final assembly

Israel and Lockheed Martin this week celebrated the start of final assembly of the first  F-35A Adir ( “mighty one” in Hebrew) for Israel in Forth Worth, Texas. The aircraft, designated as F-35A aircraft AS-1, officially began its mate process, where four major components of the fighter aircraft are joined together in the Electronic Mate and Assembly Station to form the aircraft’s structure.

The first Israeli F-35A will continue its assembly in Fort Worth and is expected to roll out of the factory in June and be delivered to the Israeli Air Force (IAF) later this year.

Contract

In 2010, Israel became the first country to order the F-35 through the US Foreign Militrary Sales (FMS) program. The country signed contracts for 33 F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft.

Israel’s contribution to the F-35 program includes Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI F-35A wing production, Elbit Systems work on the Generation III helmet-mounted display system worn by all F-35 pilots fleet-wide and Elbit Systems-Cyclone F-35 center fuselage composite components production.

© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image (top): An F-35A inflight. (Image © Lockheed Martin)

The end for A-4 Skyhawk in Israel

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) on Sunday 13 December said good bye to the McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk after 48 years of service. A formation flight flew over all IAF bases on Sunday morning. The Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master takes over the A-4’s training duties.

The Skyhawks flew for the final time from Hatzerim airbase, witnessed by many active and former IAF-personnel. Virtually every pilot in the IAF flew the A-4 at one time or another, as the type was reponsible for pilot training over the last decades. It was applauded for its reliability during the farewell ceremony.

The first Skyhawk – called Ayit ( Eagle) in Hebrew – arrived in Israel on 29 December 1967 when the first four were unloaded from a ship in Haifa harbour. The type saw combat during various conflicts between Israel and its neighbouring states from 1967 until 1970. During the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Skyhawks flew 1,000 operational sorties.

Two seater A-4 Skyhawks were the most numerous in flight training. (Image © IAF)
Two seater A-4 Skyhawks were the most numerous in flight training. (Image © IAF)

Flight School
In the nineties, 102 The Flying Tigers squadron, a long time Skyhawk user, was transformed into a flight school for future pilots and weapons operators. A large number of Skyhawks was sold to new users, among them various companies providing training assets to Western air forces.

On 9 July 2014, the first Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Masters arrived in Israel. Just months later, a new Flight Training Center for the new, Italian made trainer jet was ready for use, marking the beginning of the end for the A-4.

Close to 20 of 30 M-346 trainer jets ordered, have been delivered so far. Last June, the first student pilots earned their wings on the Skyhawk’s replacement.

The A-4 now only remains in use in Argentina and Brazil. The first of 12 Skyhawks was re-delivered to the Brazilian Navy (Marinha do Brasil) earlier this year after being upgraded.

© 2015 Airheadfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
Featured image: A set of Skyhawks awaits take off clearance. (Image © IAF

A former IAF Skyhawk, now working for a civil contractor. (Image © Elmer van Hest)
A former IAF Skyhawk, now working for a civil contractor. (Image © Elmer van Hest)