The IAF has been undergoing a significant strengthening process over the past years: new platforms are integrated while old ones are modified. These are some of the decisions made as part of the process
These days, factors in the IAF Headquarters are working on plans regarding equipment for the next decade. These plans will then be transferred to the IAF Commander, Deputy Chief of Staff and the IDF Chief of Staff for approval.
Col. A', Head of the Planning & Organization Department, tells us about the IAF's improvement process. The IAF will continue integrating the "Adir" (F-35I) aircraft in 2018. This process is the focal point of the IAF's workforce, and additional aircraft are due to be integrated in the future. "The 'Adir' is due to give the IAF's combat division a push. It is already in operational activity", said Col. A'. "We continue to integrate the aircraft, and the order of power keeps growing. In 2018, an establishment team for an additional 'Adir' squadron will commence its work".
New and Improved
Besides purchasing new "Adir" aircraft, the IAF is in talks regarding the purchase of improved "Ra'am" (F-15IA) aircraft. "We are considering Israel's optimal order of power with regards to the challenges we face", elaborated Col. A'. "We have to consider the challenges of the upcoming decades. Not just conventional things such as strengthening countries, but also the possibility of certain twists and turns. The IAF is Israel's insurance policy, and the fifth generation of aircraft allows us to handle the challenges we face in a more optimal manner. Our current goal is to continue purchasing fifth generation aircraft while modifying the fourth-generation aircraft according to changes in the battlefield".
"We are considering purchasing fourth-and-a-half generation F-15IA aircraft", added Col. A'. "They have excellent capabilities, and will allow us to modify and improve our older aircraft. The decision regarding the purchase will be made by the IDF Chief of Staff in the coming year".
Besides integrating new aircraft, the IAF continues to modify its previous aircraft. "The 'Karnaf' (Hercules C-130) modification process has ended successfully. In addition, the IAF has finished equipping itself with 'Shimshon' (Super Hercules C-130J) aircraft, which have already participated in many operational sorties".
"We are currently modifying the 'Barak' (F-16C/D) and 'Sufa' (F-16I) aircraft, with the 'Barak' modification already in progress. The project is meant to install new systems in the aircraft. Regarding munitions, two major munitions deals will be signed in the coming year, dealing with both Israeli and American munitions".
Out With the Old, In With the New
In the field of helicopters, the IAF is currently due to purchase a new instructional helicopter for the Flight Academy which will arrive in three years and act as a significant leap for instruction in the Helicopter Division.
At the same time, the IAF is in communication with the United States Navy with the goal of integrating Israeli systems into the "Seahawk" helicopter, which is due to be integrated into the IAF in three years and replace the "Atalef" (AS565 Panther). The process will improve the IAF's naval combat and defense capabilities. The "Seahawk" will also enhance response time to threats in naval areas, specifically oil platforms.
A modification process is due to be completed in the “Yanshuf” (Blackhawk) helicopter, which will include new avionics systems, upgraded anti-aircraft capabilities and an automatic hovering capability. Sikorsky-made “Yas’ur” (CH-53) helicopters, which arrived in the late 1960s, will continue to operate until the year 2025, after which they will be replaced. The candidates for replacement are the CH-53K helicopter, based on the “Yas’ur” model, and the “Chinook” (CH-47). The option of integrating V-22 tiltrotor helicopters is also being considered.
The Air Defense Division will be expanding as well. “We are expanding the scope of the ‘David’s Sling’ interception system’s capabilities, establishing additional launch divisions and enlarging the number of ‘Iron Dome’ batteries. This is part of the IDF Chief of Staff’s plan for 2018”, stated Col. A’. “Besides expanding the order of power, there will also be a change in the Air Defense Division’s structure. In 2019, the construction of both the ‘Iron Dome’ and the ‘David’s Sling’ battalion headquarters will be completed in Hatzor AFB”.
A New Era of Aerial Refueling
Next year, the IAF will integrate a new “Nachshon” (Gulfstream) aircraft. Radar systems made by Elta will be installed in the new aircraft, providing it with new reconnaissance capabilities. One of the IAF’s main decisions regarding the heavy transport division is finding a replacement for the “Re’em” (Boeing 707), the oldest aircraft in the IDF. After over five decades, the aerial refueling division will receive the required upgrade.
The replacement purchase deal will be signed this coming year. The candidates for the replacing aircraft include the “Boeing 767”, due to be converted by IAI (Israeli Aerospace Industries) to a military transport aircraft; or the KC-46 Boeing aircraft, a powerful multipurpose aerial refueling aircraft used by the United States Air Force.