February 03, 2014
Credit: Israel Aerospace Industries
Offering a modernized version of its 1970s-era, delta-wing Kfir Mach 2+ fighter aircraft, IAI is looking toward the Asia-Pacific region for new prospects.
The company can still deliver up to 50 Kfirs, configured to the newest Block 60 standard, using airframes retired from IAF service in the 1990s, according to IAI sources. IAI recently unveiled upgrades, including the introduction of IAI/Elta EL/M 2052 active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, extending the fighter jets' capabilities to conduct maritime strike missions and extended air defense, through the networked integration of on-board and off-board sensors.
The airframes have been mothballed in ultra-dry conditions at an airbase in the southern Negev desert, and are in good condition for refurbishment.
The acquisition cost of the Kfir Block 60 would be around $20 million, including the avionics and weaponry—about a third of the cost of an upgraded, modern second-hand single-engine jet fighter, and its operating cost would be about 25% of an equivalent fighter jet.
Sri Lanka is the first and only Kfir operator in Asia, receiving seven of the fighters in 1995. By the year 2000, the Sri Lankan air force had acquired eight more Kfirs and one two-seater trainer, increasing its Kfir inventory to 15, including two twin-seater trainers. These combat planes proved themselves in combat through a long and intensive service.
One Sri Lankan Kfir squadron has carried out more than 2,800 operational flying hours and dropped more than 3,500 tons of bombs since 1996. During the Tamil War, the squadron provided close air support, air interdiction, battlefield air interdiction, maritime air operations and air interception.
The 10th Squadron, based at the Katunayake air base near Colombo, operates three different types of Kfir aircraft. These include Kfir C-2, C-7 and TC-2 twin-seater variants. A possible modernization would standardize all aircraft to a common configuration and guarantee a full life-cycle for the aircraft and engines. However, since the end of the Tamil war in 2009, Sri Lanka has refocused its requirements, emphasizing maritime patrol, surveillance and internal security. Therefore, modernization of the Kfirs will not be a high priority for the military.