One of the fighter jets most associated with Israel is the F-15 Eagle. The first F-15 touched down in Israel in 1976 and the jet has served continuously—and without defeat—since. In 1998, the Israeli Air Force introduced a new version of the jet, one designed for air-to-air and air-to-ground combat. The Ra’am (Thunder) serves as the long-range striking arm of the Israeli Air Force, complementing the new F-35I Adir fighter to ensure Israeli air superiority now and into the foreseeable future.
The earliest versions of the McDonnell Douglas (today Boeing) F-15 Eagle were pure air-to-air fighters. Large twin-engine, single-seat fighters, they featured a bubble canopy for excellent visibility, a powerful APG-63 radar, a combat load of four AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided missiles and four AIM-9 Sidewinder infrared-guided missiles, and an M61 Gatling gun. The two Pratt & Whitney F100 engines gave the F-15 such an impressive power-to-weight ratio that the new jet could easily accelerate straight up.
The F-15 was large and versatile enough that engineers considered a multirole version, one that took advantage of the F-15’s power, range, and size to carry air-to-ground weapons. This led to the development of the F-15E Strike Eagle, which entered service with the U.S. Air Force in 1989 and promptly saw service in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
The Strike Eagle’s performance in the Gulf War stirred Israeli interest. The Gulf War had not exactly gone as planned for Tel Aviv, which had been bombarded by Scud missiles launched by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Israel acquiesced to U.S. pressure not to retaliate, but even if it had decided to do so it lacked the long-range aircraft and reconnaissance assets necessary to hunt Scud launchers in Western Iraq. Saddam Hussein remained in power after the war to eject his army from Kuwait, ensuring that Iraq would remain a threat to Israel. Meanwhile, Iran was in the early stages of its nuclear weapons program. A long-range fighter would be a necessary weapon for deterring, or failing that destroying, threats from the east.
An Israeli Strike Eagle would go a long way toward fixing the Israeli Air Force’s shortcomings. The F-15E’s conformal fuel tanks would add range the range necessary to attack long-range targets. The dual air-to-air/air-to-ground capability meant an F-15E could self-escort if necessary. (In 1981, Israeli F-15s escorted F-16s tasked to destroy the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak, enlarging the air group and the need for aerial refueling and other support.) A single plane that could do it all, that the Israel Air Force already knew very well, was an intriguing option.
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Israel selected the F-15I, or Ra’am, in May 1994 with an initial agreement to buy twenty-one aircraft (known as Peace Fox V) with a further option for four more (Peace Fox VI.) The order was increased to twenty-five aircraft in 1995. The F-15 had already served in the Israeli Air Force for fifteen years, and Israeli engineers had plenty of ideas on how to improve on the platform. Israeli Aerospace Industries worked with manufacturer Boeing (which had since purchased McDonnell Douglas) to contribute many of the aircraft’s avionics.
The F-15I hosted a number of indigenous features. The aircraft had an Israeli-made central computer, GPS/inertial guidance system, and an Elbit display and sight helmet (DASH). The airplanes were delivered with electronic warfare systems built into the F-15E, instead of using the Israeli Elisra SPS-2110 Integrated Electronic Warfare System.
The F-15I could carry all the weapons Israeli F-15As carried and then some. The Ra’am initially carried AIM-9L Sidewinder and Python infrared-guided short-range missiles, but time has narrowed that down to the Python. The fighter also carried both the older AIM-7 Sparrow and newer AIM-120 AMRAAM radar-guided medium-range missile.
The F-15I’s twin engines and large airframe mean can carry up to 18,000 pounds of fuel and munitions. The Israeli Air Force originally described the jet’s ordnance load as thirty-six Rockeye cluster bombs or six Maverick air-to-ground missiles. Today, the F-15I’s air-to-ground munitions set has expanded to include Paveway laser-guided bombs, Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) satellite-guided bombs, BLU-109 “bunker-buster” bombs, the SPICE precision-guided bomb, and AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missiles.
The first F-15I arrived in Israel in 1997, with new aircraft arriving at about once a month until the order was fulfilled in 1999. The aircraft served continuously over the past twenty years, not only in training exercises but anti-terrorism operations, the 2006 Lebanon War, the Gaza War, Operation Pillar of Defense, and Operation Cast Lead. The F-15Is were also heavily involved in Israeli planning to strike Iranian nuclear facilities had Iran, a strike headed off by the signing of the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and the West.
The IAF’s adoption of the F-35I “Adir” fighter did not dampen the country’s enthusiasm for the F-15. The IAF still calls the aircraft its “strategic aircraft,” with the head of the Air Force stating, “At the end of the day, when we want to reach far distances with few aircraft many arms – the F-15I wins.”
In 2016, Israel announced the start of an upgrade program meant to keep the F-15I relevant, including a new active, electronically-scanned array radar and updated avionics. In 2018, the IAF was reportedly torn between purchasing F-15I and F-35 fighters, leaning towards the former over the latter. If Israel purchases more F-15s, it will almost certainly end up flying the platform for the better part of a century. That’s a ringing endorsement for a warplane first flown in the early 1970s.
Kyle Mizokami is a writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in The Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and The Daily Beast. In 2009 he co-founded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch.
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Despite advances in modern medicine, China is setting up roadblocks to cope with an outbreak of an ancient plague that once wiped out one-third of the world’s population and may have been one of the plagues that God used to strike Egypt.
Chinese officials installed temperature scanners at airports and checkpoints on main roads in an attempt to stop the spread of Bubonic plague as a fourth case was discovered in less than three weeks. A program to exterminate rats and fleas, which carry the disease, was also launched in Inner Mongolia where the disease seems to be originating.
Demonstrators gather in solidarity with anti-regime protests in Iran outside the Iranian Embassy in Helsinki, Finland. Photo: Reuters / Lehtikuva / Heikki Saukkomaa.
Four human rights lawyers currently imprisoned by the Iranian regime have been awarded with the annual prize of Europe’s most prestigious lawyers’ association.
The Iranian lawyers received the 2019 Human Rights Award from The Council of Bars and Law Societies Of Europe (CCBE) — a body that represents the bars and law societies of 45 countries and through them more than 1 million European lawyers.
The University of Bristol campus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The University of Bristol in England has adopted “in full” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, the school’s Epigram independent student newspaper reported on Monday.
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and Bristol’s Jewish Society (J-Soc) welcomed the move, saying, “The University of Bristol has not been free of antisemitic incidents and the adoption of this definition is an important first step in helping the university tackle anti-Jewish racism. We now expect the university to use this definition in outstanding disciplinary cases.”
Pope Francis Meets Thailand’s Buddhist Patriarch in Golden Temple (screenshot)
Pope Francis topped off his three-day visit to Thailand last Saturday with a meeting with Thailand’s supreme Buddhist patriarch Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong at Bangkok’s Ratchabophit Temple. The meeting took place in front of a 150-year-old gold statue of Buddha. The Pope followed Buddhist custom by removing his shoes.
During the meeting, the Pope gave the Buddhist Patriarch the Declaration on Human Brotherhood. The Declaration s a joint statement signed by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, last February in Abu Dhabi. The Pope met with the Imam last month to reinforce the Declaration.
An Israeli company says it is using space travel technology to help solve one of the most pressing problems down on Earth — the reliance on diesel fuel, a major source of pollution.
Israeli startup GenCell has developed an electric generator based on a hydrogen-energy technology used to power some of the most-famous space missions in history.
The verse (Deuteronomy 6:4) Shema Yisrael – “Hear Oh Israel the Lord our God, the Lord is One” – is understood to (in Wikipedia’s words) “encapsulate the monotheistic essence of Judaism.” It’s understood to be a declaration not only there is one and only one God, but also that God’s oneness is all-inclusive. God includes every particle of existence is within Him. God is not just ruling over the world. God encompasses the world. Time and space and all of us are within God. Nothing stands outside of God’s Oneness, and God encompasses all existence equally
Watching events unfold in Israel is an experience in split-screen living. On the right side of the screen is the chaos outside our gates, in neighboring lands. And on the left side of the screen is the chaos inside.
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It hard to believe that two weeks ago, Israel was on the brink of war. With the Palestinian Islamic Jihad firing nearly 500 missiles from Gaza into Israel within a 48-hour period, even Tel Aviv was put on alert and certain train routes were canceled. My mind immediately raced to a Christian group I was going to host for Shabbat in Jerusalem Israel – Pastor Leroy Armstrong of Proclaiming the Word Ministries.
Turkey’s little remarked on but ongoing mistreatment of historic churches is increasingly reflective of that nation’s growing sense of Islamic supremacism.
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Sorek was the grandson of a Rabbi who survived the Holocaust, and was universally described as a kind, gentle soul. His funeral was interrupted by Palestinians shooting off fireworks celebrating his murder.
Two terrorists, including one affiliated with Hamas were arrested for the murder. And at the time, Hamas said in a statement, “We salute the hero fighters, sons of our people, who carried out the heroic operation which killed a soldier of the occupation army,” Hamas said in a statement. The Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad also hailed the killing as “heroic and bold.”