Procurement: Israeli Bargains

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April 20, 2018: Croatia has selected Israeli F-16Ds to replace its twelve elderly MiG-21s. Sweden offered newly built JAS 39 fighters and Greece offered less expensive used F-16s. Israel’s bid won because Israel offered recently (2014) refurbished and upgraded F-16s in a two-seat fighter-bomber version that Israel had demonstrated very effective in combat. The F-16Ds for Croatia have to be further modified to replace uniquely Israeli electronics and hardware with more standard versions. Thus the first Croatian F-16Dd won’t arrive until 2020. Croatia will pay $500 million for these dozen F-16Ds.

There are more such deals available from Israel which is retiring a lot of its older F-16s. Israel retired the last of its 125 F-16A fighters by the end of 2016. The first 70 were acquired in 1980 and 1981 and included 8 two-seater F-16B trainers. One of the F-16As achieved a record by being the single F-16 with the most air-to-air kills (6.5), all achieved in 1982 using three different pilots. Israel received 50 used F-16As in 1994 (including 14 two-seat B models) and used these mainly as trainers. Israel may still be able to sell some of these F-16As on the second-hand market like it did with its older Kfir fighters (retired in the 1990s). The F-16As were the first of the nearly 400 F-16s Israel obtained from the United States since 1980.

Israel received its 135 F-16Cs in the 1980s and about half were the two-seater F-16D. Israel wanted these not as trainers but for conversion to fighter-bombers like the F-15E. The F-16Ds were so successful that the last batch of 102 Israeli F-16s were all two-seater highly customized late-model aircraft called the F-16I.

Israeli F-16s have shot down 47 aircraft (out of 67 kills for all 4,588 F-16s built). Israeli F-16A flew 474,000 sorties and spent over 335,000 hours in the air over 35 years. Israel was the most energetic user of the F-16 and also took the lead in developing upgrades and accessories. This could help in selling the older F-16As, but that is a crowded market with more and more of these oldest F-16s being retired rather than upgraded. That is easier to do with the later F-16C models and that is what Israel did with all of its F-16Cs.

 


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