Tag Archives: Israel

Stunning, rare air-to-air image of the first Israeli Air Force C-130J in formation with other

IAF C-130J

The first Israeli Air Force C-130J Super Hercules (dubbed “Samson”) arrived at Nevatim air base. But on its way to its new airbase, it was welcomed by other IAF support aircraft for a fantastic and unusual shot.

The first of four C-130J has arrived in Israel. The new aircraft joined the Heavy Transport Division of the force.

The Israeli Air Force C-130Js, are those featuring a longer fuselage, capable to accommodate 92 paratroopers and their equipment or, alternatively, four military SUVs or 128 soldiers.

With the arrival of the first new cargo plane (the remaining three C-130Js will be delivered by the end of this year and the beginning of 2015), the Israeli Air Force will consolidate its transport fleet: the 103 Sqn “Elephants” squadron, that will operate the new “Samson”, will be absorbed into the 131 Sqn “Knights of the yellow bird” which mainly uses upgraded H-model examples.

During its delivery flight, the new C-130J was met mid-air by other aircraft of the IAF based at Nevatim: a C-130H “Karnaf”, a G-V Nachshon Shavit spyplane and a KC-707 Re’em.

Last month, the first M-346 advanced jet trainer for the IAF was unveiled in Italy.

Image credit: IAF. H/T to Nimrod Weiss for the heads-up


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Israeli Air Force celebrates Space Week with eerie image of a Cosmic War


The image used by the Israel’s Air Force to advertise an article about the Israeli Space Week features a battle of spacecrafts: error or subliminal message?

It must have been a mistake but the image that the Israeli Air Force posted on Facebook, along with the link to the article on the IAF official website that celebrates the Israeli Space Week, shows a sort of cosmic battle.

IAF FB page

Actually, the related post published on the much informative IAF website has little to do with weaponization of space. It recounts the activities conducted by the Israeli Space Agency during 2013.

Still, the image (a very well known space wallpaper that you can download at different sizes from several websites, including this one) chosen for the Facebook post is a bit “aggressive”: maybe by accident, because an alien invasion is imminent or just because Israel knows very well where the future wars are going to be fought.

Image credit: 1hdwallpapers.com/IAF Facebook page


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Israeli, Italian, Hellenic and U.S. Air Force take part in largest joint-military exercise in Israel’s history


It has nothing to do with an eventual attack on Tehran as it was planned several months ago.

Still, its timing is funny, as it kicked off on the same day U.S. and Iran signed the historic nuclear deal in Geneva.

Exercise “Blue Flag”, taking place over a vast area of southern Israel from Nov. 24 to 28 and involving about 100 aircraft from the host nation, U.S., Italy and Greece, is the largest joint-military exercise in Israel’s history.

Its aim is to improve cooperation among the participating air forces and train together in a wide range of missions, including Defensive, Offensive Counter-Air and Close Air Support.

Italy, that has built a strong military relationship with Israel in the last years, taking part to previous local smaller scale drills, has deployed AMX and Tornado fighter bombers, while U.S. detached some F-15E Strike Eagles from RAF Lakenheath, in the UK. Greece dispatched F-16s to take part in Blue Flag that is being attended by observers from 20 nations.

H/T to Strategy Reports for the link to the video.

Image credit: IAF


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At nearly 40, the IAI Kfir fighter jet received a new lease of life

Red Flag 12-4

The IAI Kfir, (“Lion Cub” in Hebrew) has just received an upgrade program to extend its life for another 40 years (possibly).

During the late 1960′s the Israel Aircraft Industries were forced to look inwardly after France had imposed an arms embargo on Isreal (which lasted 42 years) after Israel had paid for development work by Dassault on the Mirage V, a fair weather ground attack aircraft to replace the Israeli Mirage III’s in that role.

In short, avionics were removed from behind the cockpit to increase the fuel capacity and to lower maintenance costs and, in response to the arms embargo, Israel produced an unlicensed copy of the Mirage V and called it the Nesher, after it is thought that the blueprints for the engine and air frame had been acquired from third party Mirage producers.

After the Six Day war, supplies of Mirage III were pretty low so producing a domestic version made sense and got around the embargo completely.

The Kfir program began whens the need to enhance the Nesher became apparent due to the improving Soviet era jets that Israel’s neighbours were acquiring at the time.

The first thing the Kfir designers were to look at was an engine; two engines were looked at: the Rolls Royce Spey Turbofan (which had been used in the Blackburn Buccaneer, F-4K Phantom in UK use and by the AMX project in Italy) and the General Electric J79 Turbojet, the same as in the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom of which the Israeli Air Force (IAF) were just starting to take delivery of, which was selected and produced locally.

Due to the need for increased cooling of the J79, the Israeli engineers shortened the Mirage III rear fuselage and widened it to accommodate wider air intakes and an additional air intake was also introduced to the bottom of the vertical stabilizer.

A modified two seat Mirage IIIc took to the skies in 1970 powered by the new J79 engine shortly followed thereafter by a J79 powered Nesher during September 1971. But it was June 1973 when a highly modified Nesher powered by the J79 took to the skies for the first time, along with the Israeli avionics on board and re-arranged fuel tanks to improve range.

The finished article entered IAF service during 1975 and saw its first combat during an air strike into Lebanon during 1977 and even got its first kill, a Syrian Mig-21, in 1979 the same day as the F-15 took its first air to air kill. By 1982 the Kfir was used mostly in the ground attack role, leaving the F-15′s & F-16′s to take on the air superiority role.

The Kfir was retired from IAF service in 1996 but is still used by several export customers. Due to the J79 being a U.S design it meant that Israel had to gain permission from the U.S State Department to export the Kfir which did limit the export potential but was bought by Colombia, Ecuador and Sri Lanka and have been used extensively by those nations.

Twenty five examples were also used by the U.S Navy as aggressor aircraft operating out of NAS Fallon and were given the name of F-21A.

Israel has recently announced a new upgrade program to extend the life of the existing export examples named “Block 60.”

The upgrade basically strips the aircraft back to its fuselage and then performs a nuts and bolts rebuilt, upgrading avionics and other systems including a new data-link system, something the Kfir never had being a third generation aircraft.

IAI state that the improvements bring the Kfir up to a fourth generation aircraft and something that is suitable for the 21st Century.

All of Colombia’s Kfir jets have gone through this program as well as the further twelve examples that were acquired; IAI is hoping that it can sell the Block 60 upgrade to the other two operators.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com

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Declassified Top Secret: SR-71 Blackbird Mission Over the Middle East

SR-71 2

The following story, that has been circulating on mailing lists and forums for a few days, recalls secret mission by a U.S. Air Force SR-71 during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. It was written by Col. Jim Wilson, a former Blackbird pilot who has written a self-biography titled “SR-71 Mission to the Middle East”.

I found it extremely interesting because it recounts strategic range spy missions over the Middle East; something that is quite current, considered the tensions in Syria and the risk of an eventual U.S. attack on Damascus Chemical Weapons arsenal.

I’ve slightly modified the piece (that may be a book’s teaser), to make it shorter than the version received via email.

Egypt and Syria opened an offensive against Israel [in late '73] and launched a coordinated series of air, armored and artillery attacks into the Sinai and Golan Heights.

[...] The initial Israeli military losses were significant. And the Israeli’s reaction included an urgent call for assistance from the United States.

At that time, our reconnaissance satellites in space didn’t have the capability to provide Israel with the immediate and adequate intelligence necessary to assess and defend against the enemy.

So we prepared SR-71 Blackbird missions to zoom over the active battlefields then recover in Great Britain.

The mission fell within the Blackbird’s capabilities although such a logistically difficult and long mission had never previously been accomplished.

[...] The English instantly refused any Blackbird post-mission recoveries in England.

So Plan B was quickly drawn up fly the SR-71 out of upstate New York and recover at Seymour-Johnson, North Carolina.

These 12,000 mile Plan B missions would need FIVE air-to-air re-fuelings from SIXTEEN Spain based KC-135 refueling tankers.

With utmost secrecy the SR-71 folks mobilized and deployed.

A handful of days later, our FIRST photo/electronic reconnaissance mission over the live Israeli battlefield  was successful.

[...] I was assigned to fly a backup SR-71 and to stay on alert at Griffiss AFB, New York. And also to be prepared to fly ‘follow-on ‘ missions.

I was back up alert on two more successful missions.

Then more flights were needed. And it was now my turn !

[...] Takeoff was at 2 o’clock on a clear but moonless night with about fifteen inches of New York snow plowed off the active runway.

It was peacefully calm. Til I lit both 34,000 pound thrust afterburners > > B-O-O-M B-O-O-M!

The first 450 miles had to be flown subsonic, since we had to ‘clear’ the airliner tracks off the East Coast before I could safely re-fuel. [...]

With absolute radio silence, in the serious North Atlantic darkness, I entered an electronic rendezvous with three tankers. And took on 3,500 gallons of fuel from each.

SR-71 refuel

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

After completing post-refueling checks, I clicked on both after-burners and started acceleration to a leisurely but attention-getting Mach 3 cruise across the sea. [...]

About 2,000 miles across the Atlantic, I peered with awe as the sun came up right in front of my eyes giving me an incredible view.

The next refueling was a couple hundred miles north of the Azores, where I took on another 5,000 gallons each from two tankers.

I started my second acceleration while turning slightly for Gibraltar’s rock.

Maintaining 80,000 feet we bisected the narrow strait then gazed at hundreds of miles on both sides that were several notches improvement on the word spectacular!

Then I split the Mediterranean’s middle toward a hurting Israel where the weather was becoming significantly worse than forecast.

But the third air-refueling south of Crete went along as scheduled, although in challenging and bumpy ‘hook up ‘ weather.

Now packing in a full load of 80,000 pounds of JP-7, I lit the after-burners and accelerated toward our electronic and photo mission targets.

When reaching MAX fuel flow expected while using FULL AFTER BURNERS.

And a RED engine oil low pressure light clicked on S-T-E-A-D-Y R-E-D !

In near unbelief . . I stared at it for a second . . then quickly scanned relevant oil pressure RPM exhaust gas temp and nozzle position gages.

There were no nasty confirmations.

However, I could not just ignore the red light then intentionally fly into a live combat zone and face a possible engine failure.

There were no viable emergency airfields around able to handle a SR-71 Blackbird’s turn-around.

And certainly. . I DID NOT WANT to be a [ 1 ] NO prior notice [ 2 ] NO prior flight plan or [ 3 ] ONE engine – emergency landing in Tel Aviv.

Particularly since a conflicted Israeli government was not aware of our top secret mission. On the other hand, the Israeli’s military and government sorely needed to totally focus their thinking on survival.

So I took the engines out of afterburner while ‘ thinking through ‘ trying to find the LEAST undesirable alternative.

Then I had a wonderful surprise.

After coming out of afterburner the red warning light blinked out! And I became fairly-well convinced it was a false alarm.

On the other hand, my SR-71 emergency page reaction to that red light had erased ONE TON of critically-needed JP-7 fuel.

Those tankers were 80 miles away. Butthey were moving further distant each second.

Rejoining them to top off the Blackbirds tanks would present a new set of threats and undesirable scenarios. To continue on would be ‘ very close ‘ the remaining fuel.

But I relit the afterburners anyway. And I intentionally pressed forward into active combat.

During that acceleration had another LONG [ 5 ] five second RED light. Then after clicking off. It stayed off.

My flight track led down the Suez Canal past Cairo, then made a Mach 3.15 left turn crossing int entering the Sinai war zone.

The Blackbird’s panoramic and specific point cameras captured detail of hundreds of targets, as we flew across the Dead Sea and Golan Heights.

Approaching Lebanon, I made a sweeping right turn over Syria.Then turned back for a parallel path run over the Sinai to gain maximum image coverage for Israeli intelligence.

The airplane was running good. And I pushed it up a bit to Mach 3.2 before exiting near Port Said, Egypt.

Once out over the Mediterranean, I descended to 25,000 to ‘hit’ my fourth set of tankers.

But as fate would have it not only was I low on fuel because of messing around with that red light but building cumulonimbus thrust itself into our refueling location.

The refueling tanker commanders with their serious intent to carry out an indispensable refueling punched directly into the festering new ‘ bumper.

Instantly, we were ALL inside that ‘brewing mix.’ We trusted our internal electronic azimuth, distance measuring equipment, and back-seater’s skills as we crept toward a KC-135′s refueling boom.

The forward visibility was lousy and the tanker wasn’t eye-sight visible.

In thick turbulent cloud very LOW on fuel I eased up on an unseen tanker.

My backseater called out:

” One-half mile.”

” Now it’s 1,000 feet.”

Across a momentary alley in the clouds less than 15 minutes before ‘ flame-out. ‘ I spied the tanker. We hooked up. [...]

We completed a fifth 10,000 gallon air refueling near the Azores before truly enjoying another leisurely Mach 3 flight back across the Atlantic for recovery at Seymour-Johnson.Within 20 minutes, excellent folks had our intelligence information downloaded, and safely onboard a dedicated Air Force courier aircraft to a D.C Photo Interpretation Center.

Including 7 hours supersonic round-trip flight covered a bit more than 12,000 miles using up 10 hours 49 minutes.

These missions weren’t declassified until the SR-71 program closed at the Cold War’s end. And most remaining Blackbirds are now in various museums.

Jim Wilson
Colonel USAF ( Ret. )

H/T to Stefano Perer for the heads-up


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