Warplanes: November 19, 2003


The first of 102 F-16I fighters has been manufactured. This two seat version is being exported to Israel, where three squadrons are expected to be in service by 2008. The F-16I has an operating radius of 1500 kilometers on internal fuel, and can be refueled in the air for longer missions. About a quarter of the $45 million aircraft's cost will consist of Israeli made electronics. The 24 ton aircraft is equipped to either clear the skies of hostile aircraft, or make precision bombing attacks in darkness or any kind of weather. The F-16I is considerably more capable than any other warplane in service, or on the way, in the Middle East. Add to this the high skill levels of Israeli pilots, and you have continued domination of the air in and around Israel by the Israeli air force. The aircraft are being paid for by U.S. taxpayers, using some of the two billion dollars in American military aid Israel receives annually. Israel has been operating F-16s since 1980 and 236 (in several versions) of these aircraft form the backbone of the Israeli air force.


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