ISRAEL'S NEW SUFAH (THUNDERSTORM) JETS
The first two of Israel's newest Sufah fighter planes, known also as Lockheed-Martin's F-16i, will arrive in Israel tomorrow. The jets were built in the United States in accordance with Israeli specifications, and are, according to Israeli pilots who have flown them in simulation, a "totally different world." Israel is scheduled to receive, over the next several years, 102 F-16i's, in a record $4.5 billion deal. The money comes from funds given Israel by the U.S. in military grants; Israel and Egypt are the two largest recipients of U.S. aid.
The new Sufah (Thunderstorm) plane will strengthen the IAF's long reach, enabling it to fly a round trip of 1,640 kilometers without refueling. An IAF officer told Arutz-7's Shimon Cohen that preparations to accept the new planes and form the four new squadrons have been underway for two years. The pilots have spent the last several months in the U.S., learning from American veteran pilots of the Vietnam War.
"The new plane," said the pilot, "is a combination of the skeleton of the F-16 and new Israeli technology and innovations. The cockpit has two seats - for the pilot and for the navigator/weapons engineer, who will spend less time on navigation and more on guiding the weapons. The computer displays are in color and three-dimensional, such that you can know exactly where you are. The plane can fly at very low altitudes, even in bad weather, enabling the plane to avoid enemy radar. The weapons systems is the most advanced in the world, and it has additional removable fuel tanks that do not affect maneuverability."
Another pilot said, "The plane was built practically for us, with lots of Israeli technologies that are appropriate specifically for our region. Some are secret, but I can mention helmet displays and special electronic systems that other countries don't have and that are not relevant to them." He said that, when flying at its highest altitude and fastest speed, the Sufah could fly from Metulah to Eilat in 5-10 minutes.
Other internal and external advancements and modifications of which the Sufah can boast: enhanced mission avionics and chaff and flare dispensers; satellite communication gadgetry made by Rafael Israel Aircraft Industries; internally mounted FLIR (forward looking infrared) viewers; and Israeli-made cutting-edge weapon system hardware that allows for simultaneous, multi-target air-to-air engagement and increased standoff and survivability capabilities. The Sufah has also been earmarked to receive the new Python 5 imaging infrared-guided high agility air-to-air missile produced by Rafael, which has a new seeker less prone to countermeasures, lock-after-launch capabilities, and an extended operational engagement time once fired. In addition, the Northrop Grumman AN/APG-68(V)9 multimode radar increases the distance of airborne engagement by 30% over the older system, and affords the Sufah with a high-resolution synthetic-aperture ground mapping capability.
The additional 102 new planes will give Israel a fleet of 362 F-16s, second-largest only to the United States Air Force.
Arutz-7 - 18 Feb 04