This week two F16s were shot down over Yemen. When the wreckage was examined, both were found to be of types never supplied to an Arab nation, not Saudi Arabia, not anyone. The only “buyer” in the region for that type of plane is Israel.
With two Israeli planes downed this week, fresh Saudi markings painted on them, and a strong confirmation of a tactical thermonuclear attack on a Yemeni airbase, a neutron bomb attack (NRR No Residual Radiation), the Yemen war is now clearly an Israeli war.
Yemeni air defense forces shot down a Saudi marked fighter jet in the northwestern province of Sana’a in Yemen as it was conducting airstrikes. This is the second F16 shot down this week – clearly the strength of the Yemeni air defences has been grossly underestimated. The Saudi F-16 fighter jet was shot down and subsequently crashed in the Bayt Khayran area of the district of Bani Harith in the northern part of Sana’a.
On May 11, Yemen’s Al-Masirah television reported that Ansarullah fighters brought down a Moroccan marked fighter jet violating the country’s airspace in the Noshour Valley in the northern province of Sa’ada. The aircraft shot down today had reportedly conducted a number of airstrikes against Yemen’s Al-Dailami airbase. Saudi jets have been carrying out military strikes against Yemen since March 26.
According to Yemeni media outlets, on Sunday Saudi fighter jets targeted a factory in the western Yemeni province of Al-Hudaydah, killing three civilians and injuring 19 others. The Saudi fighter jets also targeted residential areas, a military airbase and a police headquarters in the province in separate attacks.
Now we come to the interesting part – analysis of the wreckage shows these planes to be of unknown origin. While they carried Saudi paint jobs, we know that they cannot be Saudi aircraft and in fact are Israeli aircraft flown by Arabic speaking Israeli Air Force pilots, members of a special ‘Kamikaze’ unit that flies specially modified F16, ‘nuke carriers’ tasked for doomsday operations against Iran, Russia or Western Europe.
One of these aircraft was most likely responsible for dropping the neutron bomb on Yemen a few days ago. Yemeni media reports that two of the ‘rockets’ carried by the fighter jet remained unexploded and were found in the wreckage; these are most likely the Sidewinder missiles carried for defence against other aircraft. We do not know what other ordnance the aircraft was carrying.
The pilots of these two downed aircraft have not been found; no doubt extensive searches are being carried out – an Israeli pilot captured alive would be quite a coup for the Yemenis.
The aircraft was shot down by an updated BUK system supplied by Russia – Yemen is well-equipped with modern Russian weaponry including MiG-29s and advanced air-defence systems, a fact that has clearly been overlooked by the Saudis and their Israeli allies; they have grossly underestimated the capabilities of their enemy and as we have seen before, most notably in southern Lebanon against Hezbollah – Israel does not do so well when it’s victims are prepared and capable of fighting back; perhaps they thought they were bombing undefended civilians in Gaza?
Resident VT aviation expert Jeff Smith of Los Alamos National Labs has provided us with an analysis of this situation.
Jeff Smith Reports
Photo analysis of the shot down F-16 in Yemen show that they are the early model; block A/B F-16 ground attack configuration version (it has the small or what is called the short tail) with Royal Saudi Air Force markings being newly painted on the air frame. All of the so-called Arab coalition aircraft are block C/D not A/B.
So this is probably one of the 50 surplus US F-16 A models given to Israel during the Clinton administration or it is a recently surplus ex-NATO aircraft either from Italy or Portugal. The only other option is that they were directly supplied from the US covertly. We need a serial no. or tail number to confirm which production block they came from.
I forgot it was carrying the 300 gal center line long range bolt on conformal drop tank with no air to air refueling capability or ECM equipment. This is why it was shot down. Too slow and no countermeasures. It was also using the older APG-66 radar. Riyadh or UAE to Yemen is only 600 miles.
However Israel to Yemen is 1200 miles. An F-16 with 3 drop tanks, 4x 1000 lb bombs and 2 sidewinder missiles for self defense is do-able from Israel. The very same distance and mission configuration as needed to hit Iran.
From Press TV:
Yemeni army has shot down a Saudi warplane northeast of the northern city of Sa’ada, as Al Saud regime continues its aerial attacks against its southern neighbor unabated.According to Yemen’s al-Masirah television, the Saudi plane was downed in Kataf district of the province.
Earlier in the day, another Saudi F-16 fighter jet was downed in the Bayt Khayran area of the district of Bani Harith in the north of the northwestern province of Sana’a. The fighter jet had reportedly conducted a number of airstrikes against Yemen’s al-Dailami air base.
Saudi jets have been carrying out military strikes against Yemen since March 26. On May 11, Ansarullah fighters brought down a Moroccan fighter jet violating the country’s airspace in the Noshour Valley in the northern province of Sa’ada.
A few hours later, the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen (2015–present) began. The Yemeni Air Force did not completely join the Houthi rebels, as most of the personnel refused to take orders from their former enemy. Also the maintenance of the air-frames was mostly halted since the ousting of the Saleh regime in 2012 and thus, at the beginning of 2015, the situation of the Air Force seemed chaotic with most of the personnel deserted and air-frames lacking maintenance, effectively preventing the Yemeni Air Force to enter in the fight, remaining grounded during the Saudi-led intervention.
During the opening strikes in March 2015, it appeared that the Coalition strikes did not hit the main combat assets of the Yemeni Air Force, with limited attacks on the runways, secondary airport structures and logistics air-frames, even in face of fighter jets parked in the open. During the initial strikes at al-Dailami airbase, pictures of the single CN-235-300M, one Beechcraft Super King Air, one AB-412 and one UH-1H destroyed or damaged on the ground emerged.
It is not clear if the Saudi coalition decided to spare the military aircraft in the opening hours and then this decision changed, or the initial strikes failed to hit the military planes which were subsequently hit by the following strikes. Other sources reported that the initial strikes also targeted a number of Su-22s and F-5 jet fighters.
Indeed, in the following few days, the coalition strikes started targeting the structures and air-frames to a more severe extent. On 15 April 2015, a Saudi debriefing showed the Arab coalition strikers destroying two Su-22 and one F-5 jet fighters while they were sitting on the tarmac.
The F-5 looked covered by a net, while the Su-22s were parked in the open. Another picture showing the wrecks of two Su-22 and one F-5 jets emerged on 30 April 2015. On 4 May 2015, evidence of a Yemeni Il-76TD at Sana’a International Airport engulfed in flames emerged. The fate of the Yemeni MiG-29 fleet remains unknown while the assessment on the actual number of other air-frames destroyed is difficult to establish.
The actual number of flyable aircraft of each type may be close to few or zero.
|Antonov An-12||Soviet Union||tactical transport||An-12BP||1|
|Antonov An-24||Soviet Union||tactical transport||An-24RV||6|
|Antonov An-26||Soviet Union||tactical transport||An-26||6|
|Yakovlev Yak-40||Soviet Union||tactical transport||2|
|Aero L-39 Albatros||Czechoslovakia||jet training/light attack||L-39C||12|
|Agusta-Bell AB212 Twin Huey||Italy||utility||AB212||5|
|CASA/IPTN CN-235||Spain||tactical transport||CN-235-300M||0/1||One funded in 2010, delivered in second half of 2012, destroyed at Sana’a International Airport in March 2015|
|Ilyushin Il-76||Soviet Union||transport||2/3||At least one destroyed at Sana’a International Airport May 2015|
|Mil Mi-17||Soviet Union||transport||Mi-17|
|Lockheed C-130 Hercules||United States||tactical transport||C-130H||3|
|Mil Mi-8||Soviet Union||transport/attack||Mi-8T||10|
|Mil Mi-14||Soviet Union||transport/anti-submarine||2|
|Mil Mi-24||Soviet Union||attack||Mi-24D|
|Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21||Soviet Union||fighter||MiG-21bis/MF|
|At the beginning of the 2015 Saudi-led intervention, the actual number of active air-frames was not clear, probably a small fraction.|
|Mikoyan MiG-29||Russia||multirole fighter||MiG-29SMT|
|Status unknown. Probably grounded due to lack of spare parts and trained personnel.|
|Northrop F-5||United States||fighter/advanced trainer||F-5E|
|At the beginning of the 2015 Saudi-led intervention, the actual number of active air-frames was not clear, probably a small fraction or even none. At least one F-5 was displayed while being destroyed on the ground by Saudi airstrikes while a bigger number may have been destroyed.|
|Sukhoi Su-22||Soviet Union||ground attack||Su-22M-2|
|At the beginning of the 2015 Saudi-led intervention, the actual number of active air-frames was not clear, probably a small fraction. At least two Su-22s were displayed while being destroyed on the ground by Saudi airstrikes while a bigger number may have been destroyed.|
|Yakovlev Yak-11||Soviet Union||trainer||14|
|Zlin Z 142||Czechoslovakia||trainer||Z 142||12|
|Cessna 208 Caravan||United States||reconnaissance||2||Can be armed with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles|
|Beechcraft Super King Air||United States||surveillance||Airking-350ER||3/4|| One destroyed at Sana’a International Airport in March 2015|
|Boeing Insitu ScanEagle||United States||recon UAV||12||9 equipped for day, 3 equipped for night|
The Air Defense, once separated from the Air Force, according to the standard Soviet segregation of armed forces, was merged into the Air Force. Up to more than six hundred Surface-to-air missile launchers may have been procured over the time, including MANPADS, mostly if not all of Soviet and Russian origin. 12 Tor missile systems were ordered and tested in 2007.
As of 2015, their status is unknown, if ever delivered. At the start of the 2015 Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, similarly to the status of the rest of the Air Force, the Air Defense looked in a bad shape with a small fraction of missile batteries at limited to none readiness status, hampered by obsolescence, lack of spare parts and desertions. As the rest of the armed forces, a number of installations were reported switching sides, siding with the Houthis rebels.
Nevertheless, the Saudi coalition reported hitting a number of S-75, S-125 and 2K12 Kub Air defense installations in the opening strikes in March 2015. Strikes on Air Defense units were reported as late as early May 2015. Defensive Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) fire was clearly visible at night over Sana’a till mid April.
The Israel Defense Force/Air Force ordered a total of 362 F-16s, from early F-16A/Bs to the latest F-16I. Fifty of these aircraft were surplus USAF aircraft, given to Israel by the US as payment for restraint during the 1991 Gulf War despite Scud attacks. All Israeli F-16s are fitted with custom Israeli electronics.
Israeli F-16s have been used extensively in combat, and scored 47 kills to date. They were also used in the bombing of the Iraq‘s nuclear reactor in Osirak.
The Israel Defense Forces/Air Force (IDFAF) got its first chance to test the Fighting Falcon with the 388 TFW at HillAFB, which was the first USAF unit operational on type. The IAF test pilot team recommended the purchase of the airplane. Referring to the decisions leading to the acquisition of the F-16s, former IDFAF commander Brigadier David Ivri explains:
“The decision to buy the General Dynamics F-16, resulted mostly from the very high price of the McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagles“. At the F-16 hand-over ceremony (which was held on January 31st, 1980, right after the Iranian F-16 deal was cancelled because of the fall of the Shah), Ivri explained: “After all quantity counts, and it is a major factor in the chances to win, …so we chose a solution combining quantity and quality“.
Peace Marble I
In August of 1978, when the Carter Administration’s arms sales restrictions policy had reached its zenith, the government of Israel announced plans to acquire 75 F-16A/B’s. The fact that Israel had just signed the Camp David agreements with Egypt, however, had established an Israel-friendly climate in Washington, and the acquisition plans were approved.
The first F-16 deliveries to Israel (all 75 block 10 aircraft, except for 18 F-16A’s and 8 B’s that were originally built as block 5 but had already been converted to Block 10) took place under the Peace Marble I Foreign Military Sales program. These planes were originally intended for the Imperial Iranian Air Force, but the demise of the Shah in 1979 and the consequent rise of the Islamic fundamentalist regime caused these planes to be diverted to Israel.
They had a number of internal changes that were unique to Israeli requirements, including the fitting of chaff/flare dispensers. The first IDFAF F-16, together with some other Vipers, was flown to Hill AFB, where initial pilot and ground crew conversion took place.
The first four F-16s, known as Netz (Hawk) in IDFAF service and wearing standard sand/brown/green camouflage colors, arrived in Israel in July of 1980 after an 11 hour delivery flight. IOC was achieved a few weeks later. Although the last 22 of these aircraft were put on hold by the Reagan Administration following the Raid on the Osirak reactor, final deliveries took place in 1981.
Peace Marble II
Under Peace Marble II, the Tsvah Haganah le Israel / Cheil Ha’avir (Israel Defense Force/Air Force) was supplied with late-model F-16C/D’s (block 30), the first F-16C of which arrived in October 1987. The first F-16D was received by the IAF on December 21, 1987, and was seen in ‘First Combat squadron’ colors, carrying the tail number #031. A total of 75 Block 30 aircraft was delivered: 51 F-16C’s and 24 F-16D’s (locally known as Barak or Lightning) and 24 F-16D’s.
Peace Marble III
Following the cancellation of the indigenous Lavi fighter project in May of 1988, a follow-on order was placed for 60 F-16C/D block 40 aircraft (30 F-16C’s, 30 F-16D’s), plus an option for 15 more. This was under Peace Marble III. The first of these Fighting Falcons, all nicknamed ‘Barak II’, arrived in Israel in August of 1991.
Peace Marble IV
As payment for restraint during the 1991 Gulf War, Israel was provided with 50 surplus USAF F-16A/B’s, all Block 10 aircraft. Contrary to earlier deliveries, these aircraft retained their USAF air superiority gray color scheme at that time. The aircraft are called Netz II locally. The first of these (ex- ‘DO’ 907th FG and ‘MI’ 127th FW aircraft) were delivered on August 1st, 1994 under the Peace Marble IV program. The delivery was completed in late 1994.
About half of these aircraft were ex-ANG/AFRes aircraft, with the remainder being brought out of storage at Davis-Monthan AFB. The largest batch delivered to Israel were 12 F-16A/B’s from the 157th Fighter Interceptor Squadron from the South Carolina ANG.
These F-16A/B’s will be used primarily for training, but will undergo a number of modifications prior to entering IDFAF service. Further purchases of F-16s by Israel appear likely, probably block 50 aircraft that are LANTIRN-capable. Some of these might be built under license in Israel by IAI.
IDFAF F-16B #979 was one of 50 surplus USAF F-16A/B block 10s provided to Israel under Peace Marble IV, as compansation for its restraint during Gulf War I. These aircraft originally retained the air superiority grey color scheme and are locally known as ‘Netz II’ [IDF/AF photo]
Peace Marble V
On July 1st, 1997, Ilan Biran, director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Defense, declared Israel intends to purchase a new batch of US fighters (either F-16s or more F-15I’s) in early 1998, with deliveries shortly after 2000. The acquisition would proceed under a buy-now, pay-later scheme that essentially will drain Israel’s annual $1.8 billion US aid account through 2005 or 2006. Three days later, the IDFAF commander Maj. Gen. Eitan Ben-Eliahu declared the IDFAF has a need for 50 to 100 new fighters during the next seven or eight years to replace A-4, F-4 and older F-16 fighters.
Range and quantity are the top two priorities in the estimated $3 billion fighter competition. The latest rumors at that time suggested that Israel planned to buy a supposed number of 30 new F-16, probably block 60‘s with partially-Israeli avionics. Around the same time, F-4E’s (that were not upgraded), would phase out from service. The rest of the order would consist of F-15I’s then, but if a 2nd batch of F-15I’s would prove to be too expensive, then the obvious alternative would be to buy improved F-16D’s.
On September 22nd, 1998, the US Government proposed two alternatives to Israel: either 30 F-15I or 60 F-16C/D aircraft could be acquired. Total value of either deal would be around USD $2.5 billion. In case the IDFAF cannot make up its mind, the US also proposed a mix of the two types. The aircraft will replace the remaining Sky Hawks and Phantoms in service, as well as some of the oldest F-16s. Both F-15I’s and F-16C/D’s would be equipped with LANTIRN pods and AIM-120 AMRAAM. A final decision was expected end 1998 or beginning 1999, but was repeatedly postponed.
In February 1999, however, Israel raised the stakes in its tender for fighter planes, telling Lockheed Martin Ltd. and Boeing Co it would spend up to $4 billion on the order expected by May, which translates roughly into 110 F-16s. Some air force officials speculated then that Israel would ultimately split the contract, buying some planes from Boeing and some from Lockheed. Aircraft industry sources said Israel’s Defense Ministry had made a similar request for prices from Boeing. Both companies will issue their final offers in April. Israel’s Defense Ministry said it expected to award the contract in May of 1999.
Lockheed, which lost the last Israeli aircraft tender to Boeing in 1994, said its single-engine F-16 aircraft could now fly as far as the twin-engine F-15I offered by Boeing. Lockheed has developed attachable fuel tanks that increased the range of the F-16s radius of operations to 1,500 km (800 miles). Israeli pilots tested the F-16 in the United States in 1999 fitted with the new fuel tanks.
Israel chose the F-15I five years ago over the cheaper Lockheed model to counter perceived threats from Iran, which is developing long-range missiles and — Israel says — non-conventional warheads.
At the end of the tender, on January 14th, 2000, the Israeli government decided to buy 50 F-16D block 52, with an option of 60 more, in a purchase worth approximately $2.5 billion. The option, reduced to 52 planes, was exercised on September 4th, 2001, bringing the total to 102 F-16D Block 52’s, worth an astonishing $4.5 billion.
On November 14th, 2003, the first (actually the fourth) F-16I (#253) was presented in a roll-out ceremony at LMTAS’ Fort Worth facility. On February 19th, 2004, the first two F-16Is (#407 and #408) landed at the Mizpe Ramon Israel Air Force base in the Negev, after a ferry flight from Forth Worth via the Azores.
Roll-out of the first F-16I ‘Sufa’ ( #253) for Israel at LMTAS’ Fort Worth facility on November 14th, 2003. Note the CFTs, dorsal spine, GBU-31 JDAMs, and the numerous bulges and fairings for undisclosed equipment. [ LMTAS photo]
Modifications & Armament
Seventeen technical modifications, designed by the IAF and Israeli military industries, were made to the Israeli F-16A/B’s. Most of them in the software and in the mission computers, which enabled the F-16 to operate the unique weapon systems. Fin-root fairings on early F-16A’s house the Rapport system.
In 1992 all IAF F-16A/B’s (excluding the latest batch of Netz 2 aircraft) went into an upgrade phase at Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI), where wings were structurally reinforced, and Elbit’s advanced flight and mission management system was installed. By the end of this phase, all F-16A/B’s were system equaled with the F-16C’s; however, the engine remained the original F-100.
Externally, the Israeli F-16C differs from other F-16C’s by having an extension to the base of its vertical stabilizer, similar to the Norwegian F-16s parachute brake compartment; however, no parachutes are used on IAF F-16s. Israeli F-16s have extensive local modifications, with different avionics fits and higher gross weights, requiring changes in the landing gear and the use of new wheels. The maximum all-up weight of an Israeli F-16 is 48,000 pounds, as compared to 42,300 pounds for a USAF Block 40 F-16C.
The third batch of F-16C/D’s is fitted with Elta’s EL/L-8240 ECM, replacing Lockheed Martin Defense Systems’ (LMDS, formerly Loral) AN/ALQ-178 Rapport III internal ECM. F-16C’s appear to have larger navigation lights mountings on the intake. These most likely house electronics. The F-16C/D’s ordered to compensate for the cancelled Lavi Project received Israeli ECM systems (manufactured by Elisra), and flight management computers (made by Elbit).
While the F-16B is a two seat version of the F-16A used for pilot conversion, the Israeli F-16D is completely different from the F-16C. The back seat is reserved for the F-16s Weapon System Operator, just as one can find at the F-4 Phantom. Externally, this fighter differs from other F-16D’s by having a boxlike extension from the cockpit to the vertical stabilizer, referred to as a dorsal spine.
The dorsal fairing was designed, mocked up, fabricated and installed during regular routine assembly while these aircraft were on the production line in Fort Worth. At no time has IAI had anything to do with initial design, fabrication of assemblies or production installation of any dorsal assemblies. The dorsal spine is believed to accommodate Wild Weasel equipment (amongst others Elisra’s SPS-3000 self-protection jammer) which detects emissions from enemy radar sites and pinpoints their locations, and specialized weapon delivery systems, such as ‘smart bombs’ guided using the back seat’s side stick for control. The IDFAF would confirm only that this space is filled with various electronic systems.
According to the IDFAF Magazine, this version of the F-16D is much heavier than the ‘standard’ production F-16D’s. Its empty weight is 9,525 kg, while the standard version weighs just 7,900 kg. The maximum takeoff weight was extended to 21,770 kg – 4,760 kg more than the standard version, a fact made possible by modifications made to the landing gear. The extent of the modifications called for a different (non-official) model designation, hence the Israeli F-16D was designated IF-16D. As the F-16C’s in service by the IDFAF, the IF-16D is powered by a General Electric F110-GE-100 engine, with an enlarged air intake.
IDF/AF F-16D block 40 #612, showing the enlarged spine and enlarged navlight mounts on the intake. These aircraft were the first production aircraft with the dorsal spine and are supposedly used in a Wild Weasel role [IDF/AF photo]
The F-16I looks radically different from other F-16s, with Conformal Fuel Tanks, dorsal spine, and numerous fairings and bulges for undisclosed equipment. Rumor has it that a lot of the equipment is only installed after delivery to Israel.
The IDFAF operates a ‘customized’ F-16D Block 40 test bed aircraft, designated CK-1.
Targeting and Navigation pods
IDF/AF F-16C/D Fighting Falcons were originally fitted with the Martin-Marietta Sharpshooter pod, which is a downgraded version of the Martin Marietta AN/AAQ-14 LANTIRN targeting pod. The Sharpshooter pods were later replaced by the Rafael Litening infrared targeting and navigational pod, and the Sharpshooter pods were transferred to the F-15I Eagles. During the roll-out ceremony, the F-16I carried both Lantirn pods.
In May 1989, the IDFAF revealed an F-16D at Hatsor AFB carrying a AGM-78D ‘Standard ARM’ missile which was used to attack Syrian SA batteries during the Peace of Galilee operation in Lebanon, confirming the suspicion that F-16Ds were used in a Wild Weasel role.
Israeli F-16s operate with a variety of locally-developed weapons, including the advanced Python 4 & 5 air-to-air missiles and the Popeye & Spice AGM’s.
The latest batch of IDFAF F-16D Block 52 will be equipped to carry a wide range of modern weapons, including domestically developed ECM equipment. All of the planes will be in a dual-seat configuration with a Weapon Systems Officer in the backseat to operate all of the electronics.
An IDF/AF viper banking over the Golan heights, armed with 2 JDAMs, 2 Python 5 and 2 Sidewinder missiles. [IDF/AF photo]
Please refer to the F-16 Units section for an overview of units.
Since the American government had not been consulted in advance about the Osirak attack, the Reagan administration publicly denounced the raid as militarily reckless and temporarily held up a final batch of 22 F-16A/B’s to Israel. However, the embargo was lifted in August of 1981 and deliveries of F-16s to Israel were allowed to continue.
The first fighter kill of the F-16 in the world, took place at July 14th, 1981, when Lieutenant-Colonel Amir Nachumi, the squadron’s leader (leader of the second formation during ‘Operation Opera’), downed a Syrian MiG-21. During 1982, the period before the Lebanon war, 3 Syrian MiG-21s and 2 Syrian MiG-23s were shot down.
In 1983-84, F-16s played a key role in Operation Drugstore-Artzav 19, an attack on Syrian missile sites in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Numerous missile sites were attacked and destroyed and fierce air battles with Syrian fighters took place. A total of 92 Syrian fighter (more than 30% of total inventory) were shot down, and Israeli F-16s achieved a 44-0 kill ratio.
One aircraft reportedly shot down four Syrian fighters in a single sortie. There is at least one IDFAF F-16 with four Syrian kill-markings on its fuselage.First combat activity of the F-16C’s in the IDFAF took place on April 22nd, 1988, when according to IDF spokesman:
“Friday afternoon, IDFAF airplanes attacked terrorist bases south of Beirut. Targets were terrorist command centers, ammunition depots and weapon systems. Accurate hits were achieved.”
During an interview given to the IDFAF Magazine, the squadron leader, Lieutenant-Colonel Y., described the airplane:
“Compared to any other fighter I know, the ‘Barak’ maintains a very good operational profile, even, as usually is the case, it is flown in a ‘dirty’ aerodynamically configuration. This fighter is a true breakthrough in power/weight ratio, that allows the airplane to achieve high penetration speeds while keeping high maneuverability.
This fighter could penetrate at low altitudes at speeds exceeding 500 knots (927 km/h) with external loads, while other fighters would not achieve greater speeds than 450 knots (834 km/h), and this has a significant meaning for the fighters survivability and ability to carry out the mission“.
The First Jet squadron carries out daily interception alerts, air patrols, training for air to air and air to ground missions. The squadron leader also revealed, that the squadron carried out two ‘serious’ missions. One of them was a direct attack with iron bombs. This attack turned out to be so accurate, pilots said it might be the end of the era of the ‘smart’ bombs.
The other mission was an attack carried out at night, when accurate hits were achieved using a radar assisted attack mode, while no night vision aids were used. Lieutenant-Colonel Y. concluded his assessment of the F-16C fighter by saying:
“Take the flying characteristics, its accurate bombing and interception ability, add to it a unique self defense system to give it exceptional survivability in the combat zone, and you’ve got a nearly perfect fighter!“
- Tsahi Ben-Ami;
- Zvi Kreisler.
|Yemeni Air Force • Army AD & SSM Units • Yemen Navy • Paramilitary Forces • Deployment • • •|
|MiG-29 —F-5E — Su-22M-2 — L-39C — Mi-24D — IL-76TD — An-12 — An-26 — An-32 — Mi-8T/17 — MiG-17F|
The F-16A/B was the first production version of the Fighting Falcon, the A being the single-seat version and the B being the two-seat version. Aside from the second seat, the A and B versions are essentially identical and have the same performance envelope and armament fit.
Unfortunately, The USAF decided not to use the tried-and-true shorthand for describing minor changes to the Fighting Falcon that are introduced on the production line. Instead, F-16s are referred to by a rather bewildering set of Block Numbers, MSIP stages, and OCU’s. The acronym MSIP stands for “Multinational Staged Improvement Program”, and is a blanket name for a program in which changes are incorporated in the F-16s as they come off the production line, rather than marrying them to a Multi-Stage Improvement Program, as was done for the F-15 Eagle. The acronyms are the same, but the way that the two programs work is quite different.
The two YF-16s and the eight FSD F-16A’s were immediately followed by the first operational F-16s, designated Block 1. The first F-16A Block 1, #78-0001, made its maiden flight in August 1978, and was delivered to the USAF in that same month. It was assigned to the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hill AFB, Utah. A total of 94 Block 1 aircraft rolled off the production line at the Fort Worth facility; they were all delivered to the USAF and the 4 initial European customers (Belgium, Denmark, The Netherlands and Norway).
Block 1 F-16s (and the FSD aircraft) can be distinguished from all subsequent Fighting Falcons by a black radome. Between late-1981 and mid-1984 however, these aircraft were brought up to block 10 standard under projects Pacer Loft I (starting 1982) and Pacer Loft II (1983). These upgrades involved the graying of the radomes. Block 1 (and block 5, 10) aircraft originally had a small horizontal tailplane and a single UHF blade antenna under the air intake. The larger tail was retrofitted later.
Belgian F-16A Block 5 painted in special color scheme to celebrate the 50th birthday of 349 sqn. Note the UHF antenna under the air intake and the small stabilators. ( BAF photo)
Pilots flying the early Block 1 F-16A’s complained that the black radome stuck out like a sore thumb during simulated air-to-air combat and made it easy for the enemy to visually acquire the F-16. On Block 5, the gray radome was introduced, which became standard for all later Fighting Falcons. The Block 5 production batch totaled 197 aircraft. These aircraft were also upgraded to Block 10 specifications under Pacer Loft I and II. Block 5 F-16s have the same blade UHF antenna under the intake as the Block 1, as well as the small stabilator. Differences with the Block 1 are inconspicuous, involving modifications to improve reliability and mission-ready rate.
312 Block 10 aircraft were build through 1980. The F-16s still had the blade UHF aerial and small tail. Differences with Block 5 aircraft are again internal improvements with no apparent external modifications. Some USAF Block 10 aircraft were later (1987-1993) retrofitted to block 15OCU standard. 24 F-16A/B Block 10 aircraft from the New York ANG were briefly modified to carry the GPU-5/A 30mm gun pod (see CAS F-16s). After seeing limited service in Operation Desert Storm, the were converted back to ‘normal’ Block 10 aircraft.
In November 1981, the Block 15 introduced MSIP Stage I changes to the F-16A/B starting with subblock 15Y and continuing through subblock 15AZ. More than a year earlier, in February 1980, these modifications were already effective on the F-16C/D production. The changes expanded the F-16s growth potential by allowing improved capabilities in the air-to-ground and BVR missions.
One major modification was the addition of two hardpoints to (and structural strengthening of) the chin of the inlet, designated hardpoints 5L and 5R. To offset the shift in center of gravity caused by the weight of these two additional hardpoints (and eventual stores attached to them), the extended horizontal stabilator (the so-called “big tail”, 30% increase in area), was fitted. The new tail also provided better stability and more authority for out-of-control situations. It changed lift-off rotation speeds and allowed stable flight at higher angles of attack.
The AN/APG-66 radar on the Block 15 Fighting Falcons was provided with an early version of a track-while-scan mode for greater air defense capability. The F-16s were also equipped with Have Quick I secure UHF radios, and internal provisions for the AIM-7 were made. Additional structural strengthening was performed to allow an extra 1000 pounds of ordnance to be carried on the underwing points. Last but not least, pilot comfort was enhanced by improving the cockpit air conditioning.
The production run of the Block 15, saw 983 aircraft produced over a 14 year time-span, and took place on 3 production lines. The first Block 15 F-16 (#80-0541, the 330th F-16 built) rolled out in 1982. In 1996, the last block 15 was delivered to Thailand, the 11th Block 15 customer. Early USAF Block 15 aircraft were later (1987-1993) retrofitted to Block 15OCU specifications.
214 aircraft from Block 15Y onwards received upgraded systems starting late-1987. Designated Block 15OCU (Operational Capability Upgrade), these aircraft are powered by the more reliable F100-PW-220 turbofan. These aircraft also have structural strengthening and are provided with the enlarged HUD that was first introduced on the F-16C/D.
Also incorporated are the capability to fire the Norwegian Penguin Mk.3 anti-shipping missile (built by Kongsberg, US designation AGM-119) and the AGM-65, provisions for the AIM-120 AMRAAM, radar altimeter, expanded computer capacity, data transfer unit, wide-angle HUD, AN/APX-101 IFF, Tracor AN/ALE-40 chaff/flare dispenser and provisions for the AN/ALQ-131 ECM pod. These modifications increased the max. TO weight to 37,500lbs (17,010kg). The first Block 15OCU was delivered in January 1988, and from 1988 onwards, all Block 15’s were built to OCU specifications.
The 150 F-16A/B Block 15OCU’s for Taiwan are built to MLU standards and are designated Block 20. The Block 20 designation was reserved in the 1980’s. It was later assigned to the Taiwanese aircraft and to the MLU program initiated to bring the European F-16s to an enhanced level, comparable with the block 50 F-16s of the USAF.
Structure & Avionics
The early versions of the F-16 Fighting Falcon were equipped with a comprehensive avionics suite, involving a Westinghouse AN/APG-66 pulse-Doppler fire-control radar, a Singer-Kearfott SKN-2400 INS, UHV/VHF comms suite, ILS, TACAN, a Dalmo Victor AN/ALR-69 RWR, GEC Marconi Avionics HUD and a Sperry central air data computer. The F-16A/B was initially powered by the F100-PW-200 turbofan, rated at 12,240 lb.s.t. dry, 14,670 lb.s.t. full military, and 23,830 lb.s.t. with afterburning. Production F-16s have the standard ACES II ejection seats.
Later, more advanced avionic packs were installed in these early production aircraft. These included upgraded AN/APG-66 radar sets, AN/ALR-74 RWR and F100-PW-220 engine with digital control interface.
Modifications & Upgrades
As mentioned before, Pacer Loft I & II saw the Block 1 and 5 models upgraded to Block 10 standard. Between late-1987 and late-1993, some USAF Block 10 and early Block 15 aircraft were upgraded to Block 15OCU standard. Between 1991 and 1996, earlier models of the F-16 with the -200 engines had them upgraded to -220E standard, providing capabilities and lifespan comparable to the Block 15OCU -220 engine.
From 1994, British Aerospace Systems & Equipment TERPROM (Terrain Profile Matching) software was installed in ANG and AFRES F-16s. TERPROM minimalizes the ground collision danger. In October 1986, the USAF decided that remaining F-16A’s would be modified as Air Defence Fighters (F-16 ADF) for the Air National Guard.
The four original European customers of the F-16 are now upgrading their F-16 Block 15’s in the MLU program, whilst several other countries are also considering this upgrade. Other upgrades are provided by Israel and Singapore, who developed their own upgrade programs for earlier F-16 models. These upgrade programs are called respectively ‘ACE’ (Avionics Capabilities Enhancement) and ‘Falcon One’. So far, no customers are found for these two programs.
Since 1988, all Foreign Military Sales (FMS) aircraft received some features of the F-16C/D, including a RLG (Ring Laser Gyro)/INS, AN-ALR-69 RWR, the -220 engine and provisions for the AIM-9P-4 Sidewinder.
Production for the USAF totaled 674 F-16A’s and 121 F-16B’s, and was completed in March 1985. Of these two F-16A’s (#82-0966, #82-0974) were built by Fokker and four F-16B’s (#82-1031, #82-1035, #82-1036, #82-1039) were built by SABCA. The remainder were built by Fort Worth.
Fort Worth built 67 F-16A’s for Israel, 39 for Egypt, 28 for Pakistan, plus a second batch of 11 which have not yet been delivered, 18 for Venezuela, 8 for Thailand, 4 for Singapore, 8 for Indonesia and 12 for Singapore. Fort Worth also built 8 F-16B’s for Israel, 9 for Egypt, 12 for Pakistan (including four built by Fokker), 6 for Venezuela, 4 for Singapore, 4 for Thailand and 4 for Indonesia.
In the initial European order, SABCA built 96 F-16A’s for the Belgian Air Force (serials #FA-01 till #FA-96) at Gosselies. The last example was delivered on April 28th, 1985, this aircraft being the final aircraft on the original NATO F-16 order for 348 planes. A second order for 40 (#FA-97 till #FA-136) was completed in 1991. Forty six were built for Denmark (serials #E-174 till #E-203). SABCA built 24 F-16B’s for Belgium (serials #FB-01 till #FB-24) and 16 for Denmark (serials #ET-204 till #ET-211, #ET-0197 till #ET-199 and #ET-022).
Fokker built an initial batch of 40 F-16A’s for the Netherlands Air Force (serials #J-212 till #J-258 and #J-616 till #J-648). Orders have since been increased to a total of 167 (serials #J-864 till #J-881, #J-358 till #J-367, #J-136 till #J-146, #J-054 till #J-063, #J-508 till #J-514, #J-001 till #J-012 and #J-013 till #J-021). The last 20 on the order were designated F-16A(R) and were capable of carrying an Oude Delft Orpheus sensor pod on the fuselage centerline station. This variant was first flown on January 27th, 1983.
Fokker also built two F-16A’s for the USAF, sixty for Norway and an initial batch of 22 F-16B’s for the Netherlands (serials #J-259 till #J-271, #J-649 till #J-657) plus at least fourteen more (serials #J-882, #J-884 and #J-885, #J-208 till#J-211, #J-368 and #J-369, #J-064 and #J-065, #J-515 and #J-516). One example was delivered to Egypt and 12 F-16B’s were delivered to Norway. Two of the original batch for the Netherlands were completed as F-16B(R) and were capable of carrying the underfuselage Orpheus reconnaissance pod.
Engine: One Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 turbofan, rated at 12,240 lb.s.t. dry, 14,670 lb.s.t. full military, and 23,830 lb.s.t. with afterburning.
Maximum speed: Mach 2.05 at 40,000 feet. Service ceiling 55,000 feet. Maximum range 2400 miles. Initial climb rate 62,000 feet per minute.
Dimensions: wingspan 32 feet 9 1/2 inches, length 49 feet 3 1/2 inches, height 16 feet 8 1/2 inches, wing area 300 square feet.
Weights: 16,285 pounds empty, 25,281 pounds combat, 37,500 pounds maximum takeoff.
Saudi military intervention in Yemen
The Saudis are leading a military intervention in Yemen in which the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan are taking part. This intervention began overnight 25-26/3/2015 with Saudi-led airstrikes against the Houthi rebels. Preliminary reports from Riyadh suggest that a Saudi squadron of 10 aircraft of type F-15 and 12 aircraft of type Tornado launched the first airstrikes against the Houthi rebels in Sanaa.
These airstrikes targeted the headquarters of the Air Intelligence command and destroyed 4 Russian-made ground attack aircraft of type SU-22, an anti-aircraft battery of type SAM-6 and some anti-aircraft guns of type ZSU-23 and ZU-23. The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) is said to have had orders to destroy an anti-aircraft battery thought to have been sent a week ago by Iran to the Houthi groups, but there is no mention if the mission was accomplished.
Houthi sources admit that the airstrikes destroyed an aircraft of type SU-22 and a helicopter of type Mil Mi-8, but deny that the airstrikes destroyed an anti-aircraft missile system. According to the same sources, the results of the first Saudi raids show that the Saudis are lacking accurate intelligence data, notably about the locations of the Houthi political leaders or the security and military commanders.
The same sources add that the Houthi military command has already hidden all the effective strategic weapons to surprise the Saudis when they decide to go ahead with a ground intervention in Yemen.
US involvement in strikes
March 29, 2012, Jack Serle
The MiG-29 is the most advanced aircraft in the Yemeni’s ‘hodge-podge mix’ of an air
Yemen is a key battleground in America’s war on terror, and the government of Yemen an important ally. Precision attacks on al Qaeda and its associates are often attributed to the Yemen Air Force. But on closer inspection the country’s air force appears to be barely functional.
Extensive data collected by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals at least eight airstrikes launched against alleged al Qaeda militant targets in southern Yemen, reportedly killing a minimum of 102 people. But local sources and Western experts describe the Yemeni air force as decrepit and inadequate, in part due to corruption.
According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) the Yemeni Air Force has insufficient equipment and training to defend its own airspace. Yemeni analyst Abdul Ghani Iryani says endemic corruption means the air force ‘has not been functioning in ages’.
‘The stories of corruption are phenomenal,’ he says. Pilots cannot fly at night because corruption in military procurement means ‘they don’t have the navigation instruments’. In 2011, Yemeni officials supported this assertion when they confirmed a July 14 strike was carried out by US drones, telling the Associated Press Yemeni planes are not equipped for night strikes.
Recent events have shown that morale and discipline in the Yemeni Air Force have collapsed almost entirely. On January 22, pilots and ground crew went on strike. For two months around 2,000 of the air force’s 3,000 men took to the streets, protesting against corruption and nepotism.
Such widespread dysfunction strongly suggests that the Yemenis have been unable to fight an air campaign against al Qaeda. And that the US has been behind the majority of recent air strikes.
Yet the Yemeni Air Force carries on claiming US airstrikes as its own. A diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks exposes this deception. While discussing the US-Yemeni counterterrorism campaign with General David Petraeus, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh is quoted as saying: ‘We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.’
Journalist Sharon Weinberger found the air force was barely functioning while reporting for Aviation Week on the protesting airmen in the capital, Sanaa. ‘My impression was that the air force as a whole is on the verge of breaking down,’ she later told the Bureau.
According to the IISS, Yemen has 79 combat-capable aircraft, but some of these are described as ‘unreliable’, particularly 19 ‘aged’ MiG-21 strike fighters.
The air force is a ‘hodge-podge mix of former Soviet equipment with some from the US,’ Weinberger told the Bureau: keeping the planes in the air is a challenge, she added. And spare parts for some aircraft are hard to come by – a number are so old the manufacturers may no longer exist.
A handful of its 15 Cold War-era F-5 fighters are capable of flying, according to Weinberger; yet she reports as many as five are completely inoperable, their engines cannibalised for parts.
This is despite the US giving Yemen $326m (£205m) in security assistance between 2007 and 2011. The majority of this was directed at maintaining transport planes and helicopters, says Katherine Zimmerman of the American Enterprise Institute. But the US Government Accountability Office reports some of the aid to Yemen’s armed forces goes towards sustaining ‘a handfull of its serviceable F-5 fighter aircraft.’
Sharon Weinberger, Aviation Week
The US has provided training and equipment across Yemen’s armed services. Much of the air force’s portion goes towards providing spare and replacement parts, says Zimmerman. But Yemeni personnel travel to the US for training, and Weinberger understands American personnel have been in and out of Sanaa to evaluate the Yemen Air Force’s C-130 Hercules transport plane.
US special forces are active in Yemen, and last year amid reports of a new drone base being built on the Arabian Peninsula, there wasspeculation that the Obama administration was building it in Yemen. But Weinberger does not believe American jets or drones are flying out of bases in Yemen.
Alan Warnes, chief correspondent for AirForces Monthly, cites Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti, as a possible source of US airstrikes. He says the base in the nearby East African state is home to six American F-15 strike fighters.
In 2004 and 2005 Yemen bought 20 Russian MiG-29s. As they were purchased as upgrades rather than new aircraft it is hard to say how much Yemen paid, says Scott Johnson of defence analysts Jane’s. But he estimates each plane could cost around $40m. Yemen’s most advanced aircraft are its 16 MiG-29s. The Russian jets can carry the guided weapons – so-called ‘smart’ bombs – necessary for precision strikes.
But Iryani believes the air force arsenal does not include smart bombs. He cites as evidence an instance of government aircraft missing rebels and bombing an oil pipeline instead.
In 2010 Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported it was not known if Yemen had bought guided weapons; but the same report says the government of Yemen used unguided ‘dumb’ bombs while fighting Houthi rebels in the north of the country.
Waging a protracted war for secession in north eastern Yemen, Houthi rebels have been battling government forces for the last eight years. In a comprehensive report on the conflict, American defence think tank the Rand Corporation describes the government’s tactics as ‘uncoordinated’.
The Yemen government used planes ‘as flying artillery’, the report said. Individual aircraft flew sorties against static targets. In several instances, the report says, civilian casualties were caused by aircraft bombing mountainous areas and villages ‘suspected of supporting Houthis’.
Beyond its ability
Yemen’s air force does not have much capacity for precision strikes against al Qaeda, Warnes believes. Flying night missions would probably be beyond its ability as well. ‘The only aircraft they have capable of night flying would be quite antiquated fighters,’ he says. ‘I think it’s the Americans who are doing it rather than the Yemenis.’
‘The bulk of the attacks on militants are carried out by somebody else,’ agrees Iryani. But according to Jane’s, Yemen does possess two kinds of guided missiles, carried by helicopters. The Soviet-era AT-2 Swatter, which came into service in the 1960s, and the AT-6 Spiral, first deployed in the early 1970s. It is not known how many the Yemenis have or how old their stockpiles are.
These missiles could be deployed on the Yemeni’s eight Russian Mi-35 Hind attack helicopters. But there is no indication these are in better shape than the fixed wing aircraft. Furthermore, there are no reports of helicopter strikes in the Bureau’s data.
When fighting the Houthi rebellion the Yemeni government was unwilling to use its helicopters for anything other than logistics according to the Rand Corporation report. This was out of fear of losing an aircraft to small-arms fire. And that would be a loss the already depleted Yemeni Air Force would find hard to bear.