Tag Archives: IAF

Fuel My Fire: IAF Training For Long Distance Love

Shades of Osirak – Operation Opera

June 7th, 1981 eight fully loaded F-16 fighter bombers successfully penetrated Iraqi airspace & delivered a knockout blow to Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor which was scheduled to come online shortly thereafter, obliterating it utterly. Operation Opera as it was known was meticulously planned for months, its success so astounding in every way it drew both harsh criticism but silent admiration for the tiny country of Israel the world over.

All this was made possible through a fateful turn of events.  The fighters, the first of their kind for the IAF recently delivered from the USA - had originally been destined for the Shah of Iran who had placed the order. The Islamic revolution in 1979 changed all that, they were offered to Israel for purchase instead..

Margin of Error

In order to make the flight, the then IAF 1st generation F16s required some modifications. Their takeoff weight for the mission was so great they stood the chance of perhaps not even being able to liftoff at all. In order to complete the mission the fighter bombers would be flying beyond their allocated bingo fuel allotment, perilously close to the point of being unable to return to base with zero room for error.

So tight in fact was the fuel allotment that IAF ground crews set a dangerous precedent for aviation missions, they moved fuel trucks onto the runways and topped off the F16 tanks with their engines running, mere moments before their pilots hit the afterburners to lift the heavy birds into the sky for their fateful mission.

Now JPOST is reporting in an exclusive that IAF pilots and their ground crews are training for rapid turnaround refueling & topping off tanks on runways once again..

In preparation for long-range missions and possible conflict with Iran, the Israel Air Force has expanded its training programs to include rapid refueling operations on runways.

It’s a dangerous practice since the aircraft’s engines are running while the fuel nozzle is still connected to the jets. The training is for both pilots and ground crews and it is being done to enable the aircraft to carry as much fuel as possible for long-range missions.

Fuel nozzles are traditionally disconnected from fighter aircraft while they are still parked in hangers and before they are rolled out to the runway, where they usually wait for several minutes before takeoff and while burning fuel. The new protocol includes keeping fuel trucks on the runway, having ground personnel reattach the nozzle and fuel the aircraft to the maximum fullness, disconnecting seconds before takeoff.

“We understand that many of our threats and challenges require us to develop a long-range capability,” one senior IAF officer explained. “Part of our preparation includes knowing how to fuel our aircraft so they can have as much fuel as possible.” [...]

Rapid turnaround

The IAF & ground crews already train for danger in routine fighter operations. Israel, unlike say the USA has more limited amounts of fighter aircraft that are tasked with multiple missions in combat operations. IAF fighters in war time are often tasked with rapid refueling & re-armament. Hitting targets, landing, being re-supplied and taxiing straight off the runway for new missions with little to no downtime to make up for lack of numbers & fighters in reserve. All this goes on in the heat off battle, much like an aircraft carrier might operate but on land.

The latest generation F-16I Sufa (Storm) seen here on take-off, is custom built for the IAF for expanded range (Credit - Nir)

The latest generation F-16I Sufa (Storm) seen here on take-off, is custom built for the IAF for expanded range (Credit - Nir)

Heroic efforts

Beyond the dangerous requirements of keeping any raid tasked fighters over supplied with fuel on the runways, Israel in any long range strike will need to be vigilant on four fronts with an eye toward escalation. Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria & Iran could stretch the IAF thin if hostilities flare.. Especially with so many aircraft tasked with a long range mission far from home. Pilots & ground crews are training for extraordinary circumstances, these are no doubt extraordinary times.

After the 1st Gulf War, in honor of the extraordinary achievements of Operation Opera, Dick Cheney presented Major General David Ivry (commander IAF) a satellite photograph of the destroyed Osirak reactor signed – “For General David Ivri, with thanks and appreciation for the outstanding job he did on the Iraqi Nuclear Program in 1981, which made our job much easier in Desert Storm.”

If Israel should need to act again, one wonders.. What exactly would Obama present Israel? His lack of foresight thus far fails to impress.

LINK: Dalem Amos blogs about Popular Mechanics, and Israel’s long range drone Eitan (Heron TP). A critical new piece of the long range puzzle.

No Deal: JSF F-35 Saga Continues; Israel Still Loitering

2014 & Now Beyond

Yaakov Katz the Jerusalem Post military affairs writer is the man, but in early summer when he wrote about an IDF letter of intent to purchase the JSF fighter.. I skipped right over it. I did so despite the fact that I have been following Israel’s ground & aerial procurement efforts closely on my blog. There are a number of reasons I elected to chuck that news. One of them being that within Israel itself there is no shortage of debate on whether the fighter is still worth the effort & money.

The F-35 Lightning II / JSF

There might have been ‘intent’ all right

In my gut, I chalked up the ‘letter of intent’ announcement to politics, in this case internal Israeli politics. Following these matters I reasoned there was zero progression on outstanding JSF issues, zero progression on getting the skyrocketing price jived with IAF budgets. Instead, it looked to me that heavy advocates of the JSF internally in Israel, pushed the letter of intent in order to close the debate raging over the plane defacto style. By issuing such a letter without progression on the issues the debate is effectively silenced whether or not the relevant debating points are addressed.

Who Knows?

Whether my gut was correct remains an open ended mystery. But thanks to JPOST what we do know is:

  • The letter of intent has gone nowhere
  • The plane’s cost continues to skyrocket, it has now nearly TRIPPLED in cost from initial estimates
  • The target delivery date’s off the mark
  • None of the main issues are nearing resolution
  • Buying platforms from Obama’s Pentagon is like walking through molasses

Here are some quotes from Katz’ piece, read ‘em & weep.

A continued Pentagon refusal to integrate Israeli systems into the stealth Joint Strike Fighter will likely cause delays in the arrival of the advanced fighter jet to Israel, senior defense officials and IDF officers told The Jerusalem Post.

In July, the Defense Ministry submitted an official letter of request to the Pentagon to purchase its first squadron of 25 F-35 stealth fighter jets, but officials said Tuesday that the target for a contract – the beginning of 2010 – would likely not be met.

“The negotiations are still ongoing and we do not even know yet what the price of the aircraft will be,” said a top officer involved in the negotiations. Estimates are that the plane will cost around $100 million. [...]

That cost is fairly astounding, initially we were looking at 35-45  Million. Then it went to 50 Million. There was no shortage of shock when the figures jumped to 65 Million, this is when debate started to really heat up because well, the spiral was going upward out of control. In the USA the Pentagon itself was non too pleased either.

Then we started hearing 85 Million dollars per plane. I know my eyes popped out of my head – But 100 million for a stock variety JSF nulls one of the main JSF thrusts & selling points, it’s former afford-ability. At that rate Israel clearly cannot pick up the numbers previously envisioned. At higher rates it becomes questionable whether we can pick up any at all..

The Israel Air Force had initially hoped to sign a letter of agreement in the coming months, but officials said that until the differences were resolved and a price was determined the contract would be postponed. If that happens, the arrival of the aircraft – initially slated for 2014 – will also be pushed off.

“The plane is not yet operational and is not even in production,” a senior defense official said. “The first military to get the plane will be the US, then the UK and then Israel.” Commenting on the price, the official said that if the plane crossed the $100 million mark Israel would have to seriously reconsider how many aircraft it will purchase.

Indeed, a reminder to myself of a lesson I learned long ago blogging. The proof is in the eating of the pudding. Whether it be Apaches, JSFs, tankers or anything else. In Israel these days we are seemingly in a full holding pattern, and we will continue to loiter while we wait for clearance from our American friends in the Obama control tower..

Should be plenty of background reading on the ongoing saga in the related links below!

Rotor Fury: IAF Upgrading Blackhawks for ‘Mini Pave Low’ Offensive Capabilities

Extra Curricular Activities: Beyond Tefen

Two years into Israel’s multi-year wide ranging future procurement plan known as TEFEN, some additional details have emerged regarding Israel’s non fixed wing aircraft priorities. Public TEFEN details released at the time made no mention of major procurement moves for choppers, but the loss of several Apaches from mid air collisions and mechanical failure have clearly spurred the need for additional purchases beyond TEFEN.

Deep Freeze

This past year Israel looked to the Boeing Company to pick up additional Apache Ds for replacements, but has met with resistance from the Obama administration pending ‘review of Israeli actions in the recent Gaza conflict’. This embarrassing reality has been smoothed right over by a described ‘likely year long negotiation & procurement process’ with Boeing, for a whopping 6 helicopters! Because we all know it takes a year plus to negotiate price and particulars on picking up additional Apache Longbows. Especially when both the Apache A, and advanced Longbow D model both already fly with the IAF.

That’s cute, but to date we have yet to see a single major purchase finalized or even a delivery on previous purchases to Israel since Obama came to office more than 7 months ago. Instead, Israel has been clearly working over time to make up the differences locally pushing forward with internal weapons development & advances, including Trophy, Iron Dome, David’s Sling, the Namer APC and now according to Yaakov Katz at the Post an upgraded Blackhawk with offensive Air to Surface missiles & cannons. Katz also mentions that the IDF is hopeful the Apache procurement efforts are nearing ‘finalization’, but mentions only upgrades of existing IAF Model As to Longbow D versions as opposed to additional replacements..

In an effort to upgrade its attack helicopter fleet, the Israel Air Force is conducting flight tests with a new version of the Black Hawk utility helicopter that has been equipped with offensive air-to-surface missile launchers.

Israel has several dozen Black Hawk helicopters – called Yanshuf – which it began receiving in the 1990s. Made by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, the helicopter was designed in the 1970s as a utility tactical transport aircraft for the United States Air Force. The helicopter can carry a squad of a dozen troops with equipment or alternatively carry over one ton of equipment. The US has a variant of the Black Hawk that is used for special operations and is equipped with Hellfire missiles, an automatic cannon as well as 70mm rockets.

The arming of the Black Hawk is being done jointly by the IAF, Sikorsky and several local defense contractors. One of the helicopters has already successfully test-fired an air-to-surface missile. The helicopter has also been equipped with a rapid-fire cannon that sits under the aircraft’s belly.

The IAF, sources said, does not plan at this stage to equip all of its Black Hawk helicopters with offensive capabilities but is conducting the tests to see if the possibility exists should a decision to do so be made in the future. At the same time, the IAF is close to finalizing negotiations with Boeing to upgrade at least six additional Apache attack helicopters in an effort to bolster the air support the IAF is able to provide ground forces in future operations in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. [...]

Contingency

Yeah, we’re not planning on equipping many dozens of Blackhawks for ‘PaveLow’ type capabilities just yet, but should ‘unforseen circumstances’ call for it, oh like say inability to procure additional US attack helicopters & weapons in general arise we need to be prepared to bolster IAF capabilities.

You just never know what kind of unfriendly atmosphere may prevail in Washington in the ‘future’. Not under this administration per say which is VERY friendly (Obama & CO love Israel, just ask US Jewish Democrats), but in the ‘future’ – Or say after flattening the Iranian nuclear program.

After all it’s not as if delaying these helicopters affects that in any way, seeing as we employ them against Hamas & Hezbollah where tensions are sure to flare should we defend ourselves by taking on Iran. It would be presumptuous to claim that the Obama admin is trying to tie Israel’s hands every way it can from derailing the US appeasement (I meant engagement) efforts.

The US MH-53 PaveLow, MH60L Attack Blackhawk & HH-60 Pave Hawk

Whenever you see US Blackhawks in the movies, you are more often than not likely seeing a Pave or Attack variant for ‘cool effect’ (MH60L). They are a lot meaner looking and jacked up with weapons, stubby wings, sensors & the like. Sometimes you’ll also see the massive US special forces Pave Low choppers, which are based on the much bigger Sikorsky SeaStallion Helicopters  – The workshorse of the US Navy. Sadly, the US Special Forces PaveLow program with the bigger Sikorskys has now been cancelled & replaced by the controversial US Osprey. Leaving the smaller attack Blackhawks like the MH60L & HH-60 Pave Hawks as mainstays for US Special Forces operations.

MH-60L Defensive Armed Penetrators - US Attack BlackHawks courtesy of SpecialOperations.com

MH-60L Defensive Armed Penetrators - US Attack BlackHawks courtesy of SpecialOperations.com

The new IAF variant & the Colombian AH-60 Arpia III

All these attack choppers and variants sporting ‘Pave’ monikers refer to advanced sensor packages like night time FLIR & radars which produce the green / night time low light effect commonly seen.

It is interesting to note that Israel already has experience outfitting US Blackhawks for offensive capabilities. One of the US Blackhawk export variants developed specifically with Israel for the Colombian Armed Forces sports electronics & sensors developed by Elbit Systems Israel, it’s known as the AH-60L Arpia III and is equippped with FLIR, machine guns, sensors packages & rocket pods – Jointly produced by Sikorsky & Elbit Israel.

The Joint US / Israeli developed Arpia III Attack Blackhawk for Colombian Forces; Used in counter terror & anti-narcotic operations against such notables as FARC Terrorists

The Joint US / Israeli developed Arpia III Attack Blackhawk for Colombian Forces; Used in counter terror & anti-narcotic operations against such notables as FARC Terrorists

It is of high likelyhood the new upgraded IAF Blackhawks will be heavily based on this variant, only with additional Israeli armaments to complement the Israeli Elbit electronics & sensor packages. The Arpia can carry US ‘fire & forget’ anti-tank Hellfire Missiles, however the Colombians do not have access to this weapon. Israel on the other hand delivers plenty of ‘Hellfire’ as required, notably in the airborne chopper based liquidation of terrorists.

*Update Note: I didn’t mention that Israel also flies a large number of CH-53D Sea Stallion variants (like the cancelled Pave Low described above). We call them Yasurs and they are used primarily as lift & troop tansports. They are undergoing a new modernization program called Yasur-2025 & can also be armed with missiles for attack roles.

Frozen Out: Israel Looking to Drop F-35 tender, buy Advanced F15-SE

Non Access to Advanced F35 Systems

I wrote about the cost spiral and the possibility of the IAF looking elsewhere previously, as I’ve followed the F-35 story here at the Hashmonean, a soaring price tag now double initial estimates and more critically the lack of willingness for Israel to customize the aircraft seems to spell doom for our initial F-35 / JSF purchase.

No F-22, no F-35

For the 1st time in who knows how long Israel will not field the USA’s most advanced generation of fighters. It looks like a stunning development for Lockheed, and a big win for Boeing. Lockheed stands to lose perhaps upward of 15 to 20 BILLION dollars on the sales. Sadly, relations between the US & Israel appear to be deteriorating..

(JPOST) A refusal by the United States to allow Israel to repair computer systems in the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is at the heart of disagreements between the Defense Ministry and the Pentagon that have been holding up an official Israeli order for the fifth-generation fighter jet.

Defense officials told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that talks between the Israeli defense delegation in Washington and the Pentagon have picked up speed in recent weeks but have yet to result in agreement due to the US’s refusal to grant Israel access to the plane’s internal computer mainframe. [...]

In the long run the costs savings for Israel may be substantial, in training, maintenance, and upgrades to existing F-15 fleets. Nonetheless this would be a significant blow to American aviation prestige, the IAF is considered an air-force elite. With Lockheed’s latest & greatest planes not on Israeli tarmacs, it is unfortunate. The F-22 line has been shut down, only 187 planes produced. The F-35 a mixed international bag / consortium has lost a lot of luster of late, fairly shocking that countries like Turkey are in the program and Israel will not even fly the fighter it seems..

The F-15 SE / Stealth

Boeing F-15 SE unveiled on March 17th, 2009

Boeing F-15 SE unveiled on March 17th, 2009

Unveiled in late March by Boeing, the new plane features new aerodynamics to improve radar signature, enclosed bomb & weapons bays, and new advanced coatings. Also updated are avionics, systems & displays, fly by wire systems etc. A new breed for what is the most successful fighter in flight today, with the IAF having flown the Eagle for over 20 years with zero losses and a devastating kill ratio.

Clearly, this is not as stealthy as an F-35.. However, the F-35 when armed with external stores / weapons loses a lot of its stealth capabilities which are not nearly as advanced as the F-22′s from the get go.

SuperBase: Nevatim hosts all sorts of goodies beyond the X-band

Radar joins IAF mother of all bases

The X-band has arrived, along with a large contingent of US personnel in what will be a fully enclosed mini US base complete with PAC-3 air defense. The additon of the X-Band gives a few more minutes lead time for the Hetz / Arrow 2 in Shahab & scud interceptions pushing them out beyond Israel itself and into neighboring atmospheres, extending Israel’s own Green Pine radar system which is welcome.

The x-band radar itself while certainly useful is eclipsed by the second detail, the global network it is hooked up to known as JTAGS which is the US global satellite / radar system for Ballistic Missile launch detection, and ground / strike targeting of related assets. The X-band and ground control station is deployed at the IAF’s new superbase in Nevatim. The IDF facility is about a month old and will house the bulk of the IAF going forward, including strike fighters & transports. It’s quite a consolidation into the heart of the Negev desert featuring some of Israel’s latest & longest air strips, as evidenced by the monstrous C5 Galaxies that brought the US gear and support personnel this week.

Strike prevention? Not so quick there Tanto..

The popular interpretation of the Xband arrival is that it prevents Israel from striking without US permission, that there was some form of quid pro quo given on its delivery. Of course this is nonsense on numerous levels. Firstly Israel would never agree to place its defense solely in the hands of another country USA or not, the notion is absurd. The xband is a bolster to Israel’s missile defense, it is not the end all by far in Israeli defense. It is truly ludicrous to suggest Israel needs permission to carry out its own self defense. The man most responsible for getting the system into Israel and ramping US House support, Congressman Mark Kirk agrees. When asked about this allegation floated in the media primarily by those opposed to strikes this was his response..

[...] “There is no quid pro quo,” he said.

“You mean that the US did not say that in exchange for deploying the X-Band system Israel needs to receive US permission to attack Iran?”

“No, the US made no such demand,” Kirk said.

“The basic idea is that a US ally getting nuked is a bad thing. The X-Band system increases the likelihood that such an attack would fail,” he continued.

Moreover, far from sending a message that the US would work to block an Israeli preemptive attack against Iran, Kirk argued that the deployment of the X-Band system manned by a US crew “will send a message to Iran, that Israel has powerful political support from its ally against any Iranian threat.”

Kirk also argued that the US will support a decision by Israel’s government to attack Iran. As he put it, “If the Israeli government makes the difficult decision [that it must launch a preemptive attack against Iran], that is when Israel will need its allies the most. And that is when the US will be called in to show what it means to have us as an ally.” [...]

History is not on the side of absurdity either

Israel has through historical precedent acted with a US red light, and no light previously. The six day war was totally opposed by the US as a pre-emptive strike, as reported famously from the era. The Osirak Iraqi reactor strike was a surprise to the Reagan administration which opposed the effort (miss ya Gipper), and even the recent Syrian reactor strike was carried out without full blessing according to reports. Not too mention the Lebanon war II which had US support but which rolled far too quickly to suggest any massive US Israeli coordination and quickly devolved to full scale war. If anything Israel seems to chart its own course more often than not. I would chalk this up as yet another wishful dream for those opposing Iranian strikes as a last resort to a nuclear Iran.

Everything a strike package needs in one convenient spot

As mentioned, Nevatim is the new IAF / IDF superbase, the new command center for Israel’s air force. Now it also houses a US mini base on site as well the 1st of its kind – a  Joint Tactical Ground Station. The system ties all US sat, radar and sensor information together in order to paint a real time view of the full war theatre. Useful for spotting & tracking incoming missiles, but also the system used to direct offensive forces on precision strikes, guiding fighters to targets in real time (right to the cockpit as necessary) to take out defenses & missile launchers.

That could be handy indeed it seems not just to report and intercept incoming missiles, but to pre-empt them as well before they launch via strikes. If anything the xband arrival spells coordination, between Israel and US assets in the Gulf, Med, & Red Sea, tying in the US Aegis ABM & THAAD systems across the theatre. This was done to bolster Israel’s strengths and defenses, not tie its hands.