102 of the two-seat all-weather fighter/bombers will be delivered to the Israeli Air Force over the next four years. A contract for 52 was added in September 2001 to an original 1999 deal for 50. At a total of around $4.4 billion, the fighters come in at a little more than $43 million each. (Compare that to around $250 million each for the F/A-22.) The production run is being financed by the US government as part of the normal multi-billion dollar military support we send in Israel’s direction each year.
These fighters, developments of the F-16D Block 50/52, will sport quite a bit of Israeli electronics and removable conformal fuel tanks mounted above the wings along the fuselage. These tanks will extend the fighter’s range without tying up two underwing hardpoints. Lybia and Iran will be within IAF range without refuelling. Also, advanced radar, navigation, and targeting systems make the F-16I the most advanced F-16 in the world. The new jets will replace aging A-4s and F-4s.
All in all, these fighters seem to be a good combination of capability and (relative) economy. Why the USAF isn’t doing more along these lines baffles me. When making modifications to good existing designs gets you what you need, why spend billions developing all new aircraft? Especially when none of our potential enemies field anything resembling a formidable air force.
Also, isn’t it maybe time that our military lifeline to Israel be cut? I’m reservedly supportive of Israel, especially since their enemies are currently our enemies. We don’t want to see Israel overrun, but that really isn’t a dangers these days. Why are we sending so much green their way? We’ve got a lot of stuff we need to buy for our own military, and our federal budget is not balanced.
Sell to Israel? Yes. Even give them a discount.
But why are we giving them stuff that we can’t really afford to?