Thursday, December 12, 2019

Israel Day 5 - Israel Airforce Museum - The Lavi - A Great Fighter That Wasn't

The Museum has the only remaining prototype of the Lavi fighter jet.

Developed in the 1980s, the Lavi ("Young Lion") was developed by Israel Aircraft Industries as a fourth-generation multi-role fighter. Originally designed to replace the Kfir and A-4 Skyhawks in Israeli service. During its development it became a capable aircraft likely able to compete with the F-16 C/D and similar aircraft.

This prototype is a two-seater aircraft, and the initial batch were going to be ordered as two-seaters for initial training with later blocks having the second seat removed to allow for more growth and room for even more avionics and upgrades over time.

Speeds were up to Mach 1.6, a range of 2,000 nautical miles, and it was armed with a 30mm DEFA cannon and advanced missiles and air-ground weapons with an advanced electronics and sensor suite and fully digital flight controls.

However, it was not to be. First, there was considerable American opposition to Israel building an aircraft that could compete with the F-16 in international and domestic sales.

Second and more importantly, building a 4th generation fighter is a darned expensive project. Just as Canada learned with the Avro Arrow back in the late 1950s, building a technological advanced fighter is an expensive proposition.

In short, Israel simply could not afford to build it both because it would annoy the USA and because it was far too ambitious and costly a project for a small country to undertake. The Lavi program was cancelled in 1987.

The last surviving prototype sits on display at the museum, a memorial to what might have been.

The Lavi name lives on in IAF service however, as Israel's new jet trainer aircraft, the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master, has been given the name Lavi in Israeli service as it trains the young Lions who will grow up to be Israeli Air Force fighter pilots.

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