Tag Archives: Israeli Air Force

Syria claims it shot down an Israeli combat plane; Israel denies: dissecting the latest IAF strike on Damascus

According to a Syrian Army statement, an Israeli jet involved in a raid over Syria was shot down. The Israeli Air Force denies.

Early in the morning on Mar. 17, the Israeli Air Force carried out an air strike near Damascus, in Syria.

The Israeli jets hit Mezzeh Military Airport, an airbase located south-west of the old centre of Damascus, where a local ammunition depot and a few other military installation were reportedly hit with a surgical strike.

Just a few ago, citing French intelligence sources, Le Figaro’s journalist Georges Malbrunot, said the brand new Israeli F-35Is,  had already had their combat debut over Syria on the night of Jan. 12-13 (only one month after being delivered!) targeting a Pantis-S1 mobile SAM system warehouse located at Mezzeh.

Although the IAF has often been quick to put new assets into action, the (obviously unconfirmed nor denied) F-35’s participation in both the January and today’s raids seems to be pretty unlikely.

The Syrian military said a total of four IAF jets breached the Syrian airspace: one aircraft was shot down whereas another one was damaged. At the time of writing, such claims have not been backed by any evidence so far.

Actually, the IAF utilizes weapons with the range and targeting capabilities required to hit the target from inside Lebanese airspace, without intruding the Syrian one. With a range of little less than 50NM, the EO/IR targeting and large 750-lb warhead the Popeye, could easily be the weapon of choice for the Mezzeh raid.

Although unlikely, it is still possible that the Israelis used the Delilah air to surface missile, a low-speed, loitering weapon that could strike moving targets and be reprogrammed after launch. Still, its small 66-lb warhead is a poor choice for a large target such as a warehouse. Same can be said for the GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb.  The folding wings of the glide weapon give the requisite range but the small warhead makes the weapon a less attractive choice.

While acknowledging the raid “on several targets” in Syria (something quite unusual), the Israeli Defence Forces have denied any of the jets was harmed by the Syrian Air Defence.

“At no point was the safety of Israeli civilians or the IAF [Israeli Air Force] aircraft compromised,” an Israeli military spokesman said, according to the Jerusalem Post.

According to the Israeli military the jets were targeted with Syrian anti-aircraft missiles “of which one was intercepted by Israel’s missile defense system, heard as far away as Jerusalem, and two others landing in Israel but causing no damage or injuries.”

Some media outlets have reported that one Syrian missile was intercepted by the Arrow-3 anti-missile defense system, Israel’s most advanced Arrow system. However, the Arrow-3 is highly maneuverable system designed to intercept ballistic missiles when they are still outside the Earth’s atmosphere. Other sources said the Syrian SAM was intercepted by a Arrow-2, an air defense system more likely to be employed against an SA-5 considered the size, operating altitude and range of this surface-to-air missile.

Anyway, the one conducted earlier today is just the last of long series of raids carried out (without any apparent issue) by the Israeli Air Force in the last year.

The IAF jets have proved to be able to operate almost freely in (or close to) the Syrian airspace, hitting targets across the country with PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions) without the SyAAF (Syrian Arab Air Force) being able to pose a real threat to the Israeli attack planes that most probably enjoy a solid and effective EW (Electronic Warfare) cover during the air strikes. Without even requiring any stealth capability. At least until they need to operate well inside an S-300 or S-400’s MEZ (Missile Engagement Zone).

The last time the Syrian Air Defenses shot down a foreign aircraft was back in 2012, when a Turkish Air Force RF-4E that had shortly violated the Syrian airspace over the Mediterranean Sea was hit by anti-aircraft artillery fire.

Image credit: Israeli Air Force

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Need Your Own Private Air Force in a Hurry? Here’s One For Sale.

Listing Offers Twenty Complete Combat Aircraft For Sale, With Parts! For “only” 200K USD.

Ever wanted to command your own private air force? Here’s your chance, and the price seems reasonable.

Raptor Aviation of Port St. Lucie, Florida in the U.S has listed the sale of 20 jet trainer/light strike aircraft, an entire squadron, with spare parts and sundries. The aircraft are IAI Tzukits, the Israeli version of the Fouga CM.170 Magister.

The price? Only 200,000 USD takes the lot according to their advert.

“They’ll need about 20,000-25,000 USD in repairs before they can fly again,” Albert from Raptor Aviation told us in a phone interview, “They need some restoration.”

The detailed listing on Raptor Aviation’s website and Facebook page shows the aircraft have relatively high hours on them, with the remaining hours listed. All the avionics and other components are specified in the .pdf file on the listing. When we phoned Raptor Aviation to ask about the aircraft, they picked up on the third ring and were ready to answer any questions about the planes.

The Tzukit is a twin-engine, tandem two-seater with a mostly straight wing and unique “V” tail like a Beechcraft Bonanza. The aircraft are listed by independent sources as originally costing $75,000 USD as new in 1955 dollars.

While developed largely as a primary jet trainer, the Israelis used the somewhat lumbering Tzukit in the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War as a strike aircraft. It’s also been flown by the Belgian “Red Devils” and Irish “Silver Swallows” aerobatic teams- and 20 of your own aircraft would make an impressive private jet demo team!

Adding to the colorful history of this type, the Tzukit/Magister was flown by mercenaries in Congo-Léopoldville, Central Africa during the siege of Jadotville in early 1961. The hired-gun pilots reportedly destroyed two large, four-engine DC-4s and a smaller twin-engine DC-3 during a ground attack using its 7.62 guns and somewhat cobbled up locally made aerial bombs.

If you want to start your own air force in the United States, however, the FAA, FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) will need to have a chat with you.

Albert of Raptor Aviation told us “fleet” sales like this aren’t unusual, “I could list you a dozen fleets for sale right now, everything from these to other types of retired trainers. It’s just like anything else; air forces have to update their equipment. This is one place the old planes go.”

“One of two things will happen with the planes,” Albert told us in a phone interview, “Someone will buy them and sell them off as individual aircraft, we see that all the time, or, they’ll be sold as scrap.”

Considering a single aircraft ejector seat can fetch well over $20,000 USD as a cool-looking souvenir for a well-heeled aircraft enthusiast (see below…), this could be a good money-making venture.

Before you ring up Albert though, he reminded us that, “Whoever buys them has to get them back [to the United States] here though.” When I asked Albert where they are, he told me, “Israel”.

Image credit: Raptor Aviation

 

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Italy has become the first country to operate the F-35 outside of the U.S.

Actually, the Italian (not the Israeli) Air Force has been the first service to take delivery of the first operational F-35s outside the United States.

On Dec. 12, whilst several Israeli and international media outlets focused on the delivery of the first F-35I “Adir” to Nevatim airbase (delayed by some 6 hours because of fog) highlighting how Israel had just become “the first country after the US” to get the new plane, far from the spotlight, the 13° Gruppo (Squadron) of the 32° Stormo (Wing) of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) received its first two F-35A Lightning II, becoming the very first country to take delivery of the 5th generation stealth jet outside of the U.S.

Noteworthy, the delivery flight was carried out by two Italian military pilots (the Israeli planes were flown by Lockheed Martin pilots) who flew their two JSFs (Joint Strike Fighters) to Amendola, where the aircraft landed in the early afternoon on Monday.

Indeed, whereas the arrival of the first Israeli or Dutch F-35s got a significant media coverage (with constant updates, live streaming on social media, etc.), the Italian Air Force has kept a very “low profile” about its achievements with the F-35 so far.

However, Italy has made some significant work on the Lightning II: on Dec. 3, 2015, the ItAF welcomed the first F-35 at the Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility at Cameri, in northwestern Italy. That aircraft was also the first assembled and delivered outside the U.S.

Then, on Feb. 5, 2016 the first Italian Air Force F-35, successfully completed the type’s very first transatlantic crossing landing at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland. To prepare for the 7-hour transoceanic flight the Italian Air Force conducted tanker trials in the U.S. (in July 2015) with its KC-767A, that became the first tanker not operated by the U.S. Air Force to undergo refueling certification trials with an F-35.

Three Italian F-35s are currently deployed at Luke’s multinational F-35 pilot training centre.

And, as explained mentioned, on Dec. 12, the first two aircraft (reportedly AL-5 and AL-6) arrived at their operational base in southeastern Italy.

The first ItAF F-35 during the type’s first transatlantic crossing earlier this year (AM)

The F-35 is for sure the most famous (and controversial) defense program in Italy.

For the moment, Rome’s plan is to procure 90 F-35 to replace the ItAF’s ageing AMX and Tornado and the Italian Navy’s AV-8B+ Harrier jump jets.

 

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Arrival of the first F-35A “Adir” in Israel delayed by heavy fog at departure airfield

Heavy fog forced the F-35 to the ground, delaying the arrival of the first “Adir” jets in Israel. Not a good start, on the very same day Trump slammed the program’s cost for being “out of control.”

The arrival of the first two F-35I “Adir” stealth jets in Israel was delayed because of heavy fog at Cameri airbase, the final stopover of the Lightning II aircraft on their way to Nevatim airbase, on Dec. 12.

The aircraft were initially scheduled to arrive in Israel at around 2.00PM LT but the aircraft could not depart from the Italian airbase experiencing bad weather conditions with a horizontal visibility between 250 and 700 m, with clouds at 200 feet, well below the IFR minimums for the ferry flight.

Although some immediately blamed the F-35 for the delay, it must be said that the same wx (weather) would have grounded any other modern warplane on delivery or not involved in an actual combat mission.

An unlucky start for the “Adir” that caused the ceremony, to be attended by U.S. Defense Secretary Ashotn Carter, to be delayed by about 5.5 hours.

As if the delay was not enough, on the very same day, U.S. president-elect Donald Trump said on Twitter that the F-35 cost is out of control, and that he would save billions on that once he takes office on Jan. 20, 2017.

As a consequence of the tweet, Lockheed Martin’s stock fell by as much as 3% and was down 2.55% as of 8:45 a.m. ET according to Business Insider.

The “attack” on the F-35 comes just one week after Trump tweeted on the costs for the replacement Air Force One.

H/T Avi Scharf for providing updates on the Adir delivery

 

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Here Are The Photos Of The First Two F-35A Stealth Jets En Route To Give Israel The Edge In The Middle East

The Israeli Air Force is being delivered the first two 5th Generation stealth jets on Monday. They will help Israel “retain its edge” in the Middle East.

The IAF is expected to take delivery of its first 2 F-35A Lightning II jets at Nevatim airbase, in southern Israel, on Dec. 12.

The aircraft, lacking the Israeli low-visibility roundels (that will be applied once delivered to the “customer”) are flown by U.S. pilots and supported by a U.S. Air Force KC-135 tanker.

On their way to Israel, the 5th generation jets have performed a stopover in Lajes, Azores, where they arrived using radio callsign “Retro 11” and “Retro 12” on Dec. 6, and then in Cameri, Italy, where they have landed on Dec. 8.

The photographs in this post were taken by photographer Daniele Faccioli at the Italian airfield, home of the European Final Assembly and Check Out (FACO) facility, that will assemble all the F-35A and F-35B jets for the Italian Air Force and Navy, and build F-35A for the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

F-35A “Adir” 902 landing at Cameri airbase on Dec. 8, 2016.

The two Israeli F-35s, are the first and only of 50 Lightning II jets, designated “Adir” (“Mighty One”) by the Israeli, to be flown from the U.S.: the rest will be shipped by sea according to the IDF (Israeli Defense Force.)

“As the Middle East grows more and more unstable, and as groups that threaten to destroy us race to stockpile weapons, we need to stay a step ahead of the game. The F-35 gives us the edge we need to take on groups and armies with even the most advanced technology,” says the IDF in a blog on the imminent delivery.

The Israeli F-35s will have some domestic modifications and components provided by Israeli companies, including Israel Aerospace Industries that will produce the F-35’s outer wings, Elbit Systems-Cyclone, that will provide center fuselage composite components as well as Elbit Systems Ltd. that will provide Gen. III helmet-mounted display systems to be worn by all Lightning II pilots.

“Once the F-35 lands in Israel, it will be all our own. The IAF is adding its own systems to the jet, bringing a touch of the Start Up Nation to this already state-of-the-art plate.  All maintenance and testing of the plane will be done in Israel, and the planes are projected to be operational in about one year.”

The IAF F-35As will be different from the “standard” F-35s, as they will employ national EW (Electronic Warfare) pods, weaponry, C4 systems etc. For this reason, Israeli F-35s are sometimes dubbed F-35I (for Israel.)

As we have already reported, IAF may also purchase some F-35Bs, the STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) version of the Joint Strike Fighter, that would allow the Israeli to have a squadron or two of multirole aircraft able to take off and land from austere/dispersed landing strips should Iran be able to wipe out IAF airbases with precision weapons.

Image credit: Daniele Faccioli