IAI Kfir

The Israel Aircraft Industries Kfir is an Israeli-built all-weather, multirole combat aircraft based on a modified French Dassault Mirage 5 airframe, with Israeli avionics and an Israeli-built version of the General Electric J79 turbojet engine.


IAI Kfir
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries
Origin Israel
Country Name Origin Year
Israel 1973
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Ceylon (Sri Lanka) View
Colombia View
Ecuador View
Israel 1976 View
United States of America View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Israel Aerospace Industries 220 View

The Kfir programme originated in the quest to develop a more capable version of the IAI Nesher, which was already in series production. After General De Gaulle embargoed the sale of arms to Israel, the IAF feared that it might not have an upper hand over its adversaries in the future, which were receiving increasingly advanced Soviet aircraft. The bulk of the Israeli Air Force had been locked into the Mirage but was quickly facing problems because Mirage numbers were somewhat depleted after the Six-Day War. Domestic production would avoid the problem of the embargo completely; efforts to reverse engineer and reproduce components of the Mirage were aided by Israeli espionage efforts to obtain technical assistance and blueprints from third party Mirage operators.

Two powerplants were initially selected for trials, the General Electric J79 turbojet and the Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan. In the end, the J79 was selected, not least because it was the same engine used on the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, which the Israelis began to acquire from the United States in 1969, along with a license to produce the J79 themselves. The J79 was clearly superior to the original French Atar 09, providing a dry thrust of 49 kN (11,000 lbf) and an afterburning thrust of 83.4 kN (18,750 lbf).

In order to accommodate the new powerplant on the Mirage III's airframe, and to deliver the added cooling required by the J79, the aircraft's rear fuselage was slightly shortened and widened, its air intakes were enlarged, and a large air inlet was installed at the base of the vertical stabilizer, so as to supply the extra cooling needed for the afterburner. The engine itself was encased in a titanium heatshield.

A two-seat Mirage IIIBJ fitted with the GE J79 made its first flight in September 1970, and was soon followed by a re-engined Nesher, which flew in September 1971.

An improved prototype of the aircraft, with the name Ra'am B ("Thunder") the Ra'am A was the Nesher,[6] made its first flight in June 1973. It had an extensively revised cockpit, a strengthened landing gear, and a considerable amount of Israeli-built avionics. The internal fuel tanks were slightly rearranged, their total capacity being increased to 713 US gal (2,700 l).

There were unconfirmed reports that a number of the original Mirage IIICs, re-engined with the J79 and given the name Barak ("Lightning"), took part in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, but some sources point out that there is no real evidence that these aircraft ever existed.

The Kfir entered service with the IAF in 1975, the first units being assigned to the 101st "First Fighter" Squadron. Over the following years, several other squadrons were also equipped with the new aircraft. The role of the Kfir as the IAF's primary air superiority asset was short-lived, as the first F-15 Eagle fighters from the United States were delivered to Israel in 1976.

The Kfir's first recorded combat action took place on November 9, 1977, during an Israeli air strike on a training camp at Tel Azia, in Lebanon. The only air victory claimed by a Kfir during its service with the IAF occurred on June 27, 1979 when a Kfir C.2 shot down a Syrian MiG-21.

By the time of the Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in 1982 (Operation Peace for Galilee) the IAF was able to use both its F-15s and F-16s for air superiority roles, leaving the Kfirs to carry out unescorted strike missions. Shortly afterwards, all IAF C.2s began to be upgraded to the C.7 version, with enhanced weight performance, making the Kfir more suitable to its new fighter-bomber role. During the second half of the 1990s, the Kfirs were withdrawn from active duty in the IAF, after almost twenty years of continuous service.

Israel Aerospace Industries announced in August 2013 it will offer pre-owned Kfir fighter jets to foreign customers, with a 40-year guarantee. Unit price is reported to be $20 million. A few Eastern European and Latin American countries have expressed interest, Israel’s Globes business daily reported. By October 2013, Israel Aerospace Industries was in "very advanced negotiations" with at least two air forces interested in the Kfir Block 60. An aircraft can be delivered within one year, with two squadrons to be sold in two to three years. The Block 60 is offered with the Elta EL/M-2032 AESA radar with open architecture avionics to allow a customer to install other systems. The sensor provides an all-aspect, look-down/shoot-down performance in air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, with the capability to simultaneously track up to 64 targets. The J79 has been overhauled to zero flight hours, and would need replacement after 1,600 hours.

Role Fighter-bomber
National origin Israel
Manufacturer Israel Aircraft Industries
First flight June 1973
Introduction 1976
Retired 1996 (Israeli Air Force)
Status Active
Primary users Israeli Air Force (historical)
United States Navy (historical)
Colombian Air Force
Sri Lanka Air Force
Number built 220+
Unit cost US$4.5 million
Developed from IAI Nesher
Variants IAI Nammer


General characteristics

  • Crew: One
  • Length: 15.65 m (51 ft 4¼ in)
  • Wingspan: 8.22 m (26 ft 11½ in)
  • Height: 4.55 m (14 ft 11¼ in)
  • Wing area: 34.8 m² (374.6 sq ft)
  • Empty weight: 7,285 kg (16,060 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 11,603 kg (25,580 lb) two 500 L drop tanks, two AAMs
  • Max. takeoff weight: 16,200 kg (35,715 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × IAl Bedek-built General Electric J-79-J1E turbojet
  • Dry thrust: 52.9 kN (11,890 lb st)
  • Thrust with afterburner: 79.62 kN (17,900 lb st)

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 2,440 km/h (2 Mach, 1,317 knots, 1,516 mph) above 11,000 m (36,000 ft)
  • Combat radius: 768 km (415 nmi, 477 mi) (ground attack, hi-lo-hi profile, seven 500 lb bombs, two AAMs, two 1,300 L drop tanks)
  • Service ceiling: 17,680 m (58,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 233 m/s (45,950 ft/min)

Armament

  • Guns: 2× Rafael-built 30 mm (1.18 in) DEFA 553 cannons, 140 rounds/gun
  • Rockets: assortment of unguided air-to-ground rockets including the Matra JL-100 drop tank/rocket pack, each with 19× SNEB 68 mm rockets and 66 US gallons (250 liters) of fuel
  • Missiles: 2× AIM-9 Sidewinders or Shafrir or Python-series AAMs; 2× Shrike ARMs; 2× AGM-65 Maverick ASMs
  • Bombs: 5,775 kg (12,730 lb) of payload on nine external hardpoints, including bombs such as the Mark 80 series, Paveway series of LGBs, Griffin LGBs, SMKBs, TAL-1 OR TAL-2 CBUs, BLU-107 Matra Durandal, reconnaissance pods or Drop tanks

End notes