Tag Archives: Israeli Air Force

Watch Israeli Air Force warplanes performing aerial refueling during long-range air strike training

Carried out in the western Peloponnese and the Myrtoon Pelagos, the first of two exercises focusing on long-range air strike and cooperation between Israeli F-15s and F-16s and Greek aircraft and naval units has taken place on Oct. 8 and 9.

According to the Israeli Air Force, the drills are an opportunity to test “the ability of IAF aircraft to fly exceptionally long distances. The Israel Air Force, known as the IDF’s “long arm”, plays a central role in carrying out Israel’s military option if necessary. For this reason, the squadron is exercising and strengthening its range of capabilities through long-range flights as well as other exercises. The IAF must develop these capabilities as appropriate — whether for focused missions or broad operations.”

IAF has also released an interesting (and rare) video showing both F-15Is and F-16Is refueling from a B-707 tanker.

IAF has a long tradition of long (as well as medium) range attacks.

Even if the IDF blog says that the drill “is no different from training exercises conducted in the past few years […] and includes mid-flight refueling and the management of the air force control center,” Israeli media outlets highlighted that the fact the excercise was widely publicized on the Israel Defense Forces and IAF websites, hinted that it was related to Iran.

Indeed, whereas Iran and the so-called P5+1 countries will begin talks in Geneva about Tehran’s nuclear program in the next few days, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently urged to mobilize European public opinion against easing sanctions on Iran.

Israel has always said that all options are on the table to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Including the use of force.

Image credit: IAF

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Israel scrambled F-15 fighter jets against multiple airspace violations by unknown drones

The Jerusalem Post has reported that on Sept. 28, two Israeli Air Force (IAF) jets were scrambled to intercept two unidentified objects over Northern Israel.

The report is very limited in detail as it does not state whether an intercept was made or the two objects departed Israeli airspace.

Quoting Israeli TV Channel 2 news, they also said another jet was scrambled over an unnamed southern city;  no further details are known about this episode either, although the Times of Israel said that this jet had taken off from the Tel Nof Air Force base and flew over Haifa, in what it is believed to be a series of intrusions by drones.

The Times of Isreal also posted a link to the Channel 2 website which has a video of what it says was the F-15 that scrambled over Haifa.

On Apr. 25, 2013, an Israeli Air Force F-16 shot down an UAV (unmamned aerial vehicle) over the sea off Haifa.

Richard Clements for TheAviationist.com


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

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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Israel purposely crashed own surveillance drone near Egypt border (and it’s not the first time)

According to Haaretz, on Jul. 14, a Hermes  450 UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) was purposely downed by the IDF during an unspecified operation near the border with Egypt.

Personnel remotely controlling the drone noticed signs of a technical failure and intentionally downed the UAV in an area where Israel’s security forces could collect the wreckage.

This is not the first time the Israeli forces forced one of their drones to crash due to concerns that the malfunctioning drone could crash into a populated area or go into the wrong hands.

In May, a Heron-class “Shoval” UAV was directed into the sea near Netanya following an engine malfunction whereas in January 2012, an “Eitan,” crashed in southern Israel during a test flight as a consquence of a failure.

As already reported, the IAF operates a huge fleet of UAVs of various kind, used for various purposes, including pinpointing missiles being moved from Lebanon to Syria and performing surveillance next to the border with Egypt made unstable by the anti-Morsi protests.

Noteworthy, according to some readers of The Aviationist, there are so many Israeli drones flying over Lebanon lately, that the Israeli Air Force mistakenly shot down one of them on Apr. 25 near Haifa.

Anyway, whereas future drones, as the U.S. Navy’s new X-47B UAS (Unmanned Aerial System), are capable to autonomously take decisions as important as aborting a landing on an aircraft carrier, current drones still need much human intervention, at least when it comes the need to crash them into the ground.

Top Image: Hermes 450 of the Brasilian Air Force (credit: Wiki)

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An unknown story from the Yom Kippur war: Israeli F-4s vs North Korean MiG-21s

Even if the McDonnell Douglas F-4 was developed as interceptor in response to the need of the U.S. Navy to protect their aircraft carrier, the ultimate version of the Phantom II was the USAF F-4E, a multi-role fighter which was also sold to several air forces around the world.

One of the countries to operate the F-4E was Israel that procured the first examples of the plane in 1969 and later made it the mainstay of its Air Power: the mighty Phantom took part in all the major Arab-Israeli conflicts.

In 1973, during the Yom Kippur War, the Israeli Air force (IAF) found itself facing an Arab Air Forces coalition which was composed not only by Egyptian and Syrian fighter squadrons, but also by units from Algeria, Iraq, Libya and … North Korea, that deployed a MiG-21 squadron to Bir Arida to protect Egypt’s south.

Obviously, at the time,  IAF pilots didn’t know that some of the MiGs they would face were from North Korea. However the first engagement between North Korean pilots and Israeli pilots took place on Oct. 6, 1973 when two F-4 Kurnass (Sledgehammer) pairs from 69 and 119 Squadrons were scrambled from Ramat David Air Base for a patrol over the Gulf of Suez sector.

The F-4s of the two squadrons were teamed together and the 69 pair (which had their crews formed by Shadmi and Gur on board the first aircraft and Shpitzer and Ofer on the other one)  leading the mission.


Image credit: IAF

It was only after a long patrol, when the jets were already low on fuel, that the F-4s were vectored towards Egypt’s west-northwest: even if they were flying at the high altitude, between 20,000 and 25,000 feet, Gur spotted the pair on his radar, at lower altitude, in a position where achieving a radar lock would be extremely difficult. With the help of a GCI (Ground Control Intercept) station the Israeli Phantoms tracked the enemy formation. Although at suitable distance for an AIM-7 shot, the two F-4s could not engage the enemy planes because bad weather prevented the from indentifying the “bandits.”

However, seconds later, the Israeli pilots saw the two MiG-21s and immediately engaged them: one of the MiGs disappeared, while the other Fishbed was forced into a 1 vs 2 combat.

Alone against the two Kurnass (supported by two more F-4s from 119 Squadron which were flying overhead), the MiG pilot could not escape missile-lock: first, Shadmi and Gur launched an AIM-9D; a second later, they launched another Sidewinder which was followed by a third AIM-9D launched by Shpitzer and Ofer from the other Kurnass.

All the missiles exploded very close to the MiG, but the Fishbed continued flying.

With little gas remaining for more dogfighting, the Israeli Phantoms were forced to skip the engagement and return to base. As they turned eastbound, Gur looked at the MiG and noticed the Fishbed was leaving a white smoke trail. Suddenly, after the F-4s had crossed the coastline, Gur saw the trail of a SAM (Surface to Air Missile) and then an explosion at around 20,000 feet quite close to the MiG-21: Egyptians had shot down one of their aircraft (as it was later confirmed by the IAF Intelligence)!

Only after the end of the war the pilots became aware that the MiG-21 belonged to North Korea.

F-4 formation

Image credit: IAF

Today the 69 Squadron Hammers is based to Hatzerim Air Base and flies the powerful F-15I Ra’am (Thunder) which replaced the mighty F-4 Kurnass beginning in 1998.