Tuesday, August 2, 2011

F-15I Ra'am in Israeli Air Force Service

During 1990 the IAF was looking into several contenders for its next generation fighter. The threats this fighter was to encounter were indirect. Two of the countries bordering Israel, Egypt and Jordan were either having peaceful relations by agreement or by mutual interest.The developing threat, as the first Gulf War ('Desert Storm') would prove in 1991, derived from countries armed with long range ballistic missiles (mainly variants of the SCUD) with capabilities to deliver NBC unconventional warheads, such as Iran, Iraq or Libya. Seeking an answer to this threat, the IAF was seeking a strike fighter capable of long range flight, with sufficient loiter time above the targets. The initial candidates were the F/A-18D and the F-16D that were both evaluated in Israel in 1993 but lacked the required range or were too expensive to modify to new IAF requirements following the Gulf War. The IAF was familiar with the F-15E since 1982 when Maj.-Gen. David Ivry, then the IAF commander, flew the Strike Eagle prototype and was highly impressed, but could only dream of acquiring the most advanced strike asset of the USAF. Israel was not the only Middle Eastern country interested in the F-15E.Saudi-Arabia,a long term operator of the Eagle also requested to purchase the aircraft but was denied. The first Gulf War emphasized the danger to this oil rich USA ally, so in 1993 the Saudis request was approved. The aircraft the USA delivered were supposed to be a downgraded version of the F-15E, designated F-15S.