F-15 Eagle in Service with Israel

Last revised May 7, 2004


The nation of Israel had long been interested in the F-15 Eagle for the Tsvah Haganah le Israel-Heyl Ha'Avir (Israel Defense Force/Air Force, or IDF/AF). As early is 1974, IDF/AF pilots had evaluated the TF-15A demonstrator (72-0290). They were highly impressed and wanted some of these planes for themselves. An order for 25 F-15A was placed in 1975.

Four FSD F-15As (serial numbers 72-0116/0118 and 72-0120) were delivered to Israel beginning on December 10, 1976 under a Foreign Military Sales project known as Peace Fox. It has been reported that the Israeli Labour Party government under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin later fell because these four planes happened to arrive in Israel during the Sabbath.

These were followed in Peace Fox II by the delivery of 19 F-15As (76-1505/1523) and two F-15Bs (76-1524/1525). They entered service with 133 Squadron at Tel Nof in late 1978. The F-15A/B is known as Baz (Eagle) in IDF/AF service.

When the more-advanced F-15C/D became available, Israel was quite naturally interested in acquiring some examples. In Peace Fox III, 18 F-15Cs (80-0122/0130 and 83-0054/0062) and 8 F-15Ds (80-0131-0136 and 83-0063/0064). Later, five additional F-15Ds were delivered from FY1990 production lots under Peace Fox IV. These were in all probability based on F-15E airframes, since by this time the F-15D was no longer in production.

For some reason, the F-15C/D was given a different name in IDF/AF service--Akef (Buzzard). The F-15Cs for Israel were given additional air-to-ground capability through installation of MER-10N bomb racks and a datalink pod for guiding GBU-15 glide bombs. However, it is not very often that Israeli Eagles are used in the air-to-ground role, the aircraft being used primarily in its air-superiority role. IDF/AF F-15C/Ds do not have the Electronic Warfare Warning Set (EWWS) or the Tactical Electronic Warfare System (TEWS) that had been provided on the USAF version, since these items were considered too sensitive for export. They do not have the AN/ALQ-128 RWR antenna on the top left fin. Israeli Eagles use AN/ARC-109 radios instead of AN/ARC-164s. The wiring that makes the Eagle capable of nuclear weapons delivery has been deleted. All Israeli F-15s can carry FAST pack conformal fuel tanks which are manufactured locally by Israel Aircraft Industries. These FAST packs can carry tangential bomb pylons. Israeli Eagles are equipped with the Douglas Aircraft IG-7 ejection seat rather than the ACES II seats of the USAF version. They can carry the indigenous AL/L-8202 electronics countermeasures pod in addition to the US-supplied AN/ALQ-119(V) and AN/ALQ-132 pods. They can also carry the Israeli-built Shafrir and Python 3 and Python 4 air-to-air infrared homing missiles, which have largely replaced the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile in IDF/AF service. In addition, the Python 4 is compatible with a helmet-mounted sight.

No 106 Squadron of the IDF/AF was formed specifically to operate the F-15C/D, with No 133 Squadron operating the F-15A/B. It is also reported that 148(R) Squadron flies the F-15 out of Tel Nov on certain specialized missions. Israel jealously guards its security, and few other squadron details are available. In addition, only a few IDF/AF F-15 serials are known, and there is no correlation table (so far as I know) that links IDF/AF F-15 serials to USAF serials.

The first IDF/AF action with Eagles took place on June 27, 1979, during a mission in which a mixed force of F-15s and IAI Kfirs provided top cover for other IDF/AF aircraft carrying out an attack on terrorist bases near Sidon in southern Lebanon. A number of Syrian MiG-21s attempted to intercept the attacking force, but Israeli Grumman Hawkeye AWACS aircraft detected this flight and directed the top cover against them. In the ensuing battle, five MiGs were shot down, with no losses to the IDF/AF.

On September 24, 1979, Israeli Eagles shot down five Syrian fighters. On June 27, 1980 they got one more.

On March 13, 1981 an IDF/AF F-15 shot down a MiG-25 Foxbat which had tried to intercept an Israeli RF-4E reconnaissance aircraft. This marked the first victory against the Foxbat, which had proven to be immune from interception by other IDF/AF aircraft.

On June 7, 1981, F-15s equipped with FAST packs for extended range flew top cover for F-16s that attacked and destroyed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak (Tamuz) near Baghdad, shutting down at least temporarily Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program.

On July 29, 1981, an F-15 shot down another MiG-25 that was trying to intercept yet another Israeli RF-4E.

In May of 1982, Israeli F-15s shot down two Syrian MiG-23 Floggers.

During Operation Peace for Galilee, the Israeli incursion into Lebanon in June of 1982, Israeli aircraft succeeded in destroying no less than 92 Syrian fighters during operations between June 5 and June 12 over the Bekaa Valley. Israeli F-15s were responsible for a large fraction of these victories, with F-16s and Kfirs being responsible for the remainder. At least three of these victories were against MiG-25s, which were shot down by using zoom climb for "snap-up" intercepts by Sparrow missiles. During the 1982 Lebanon war, delivery of the second batch of F-15s was temporarily embargoed.

In May of 1983, an Israeli F-15 was successfully landed after losing most of its starboard wing in an inflight collision. The plane was repaired and put back into service.

There is a photograph of an F-15A (tail number 802) of No 133 Squadron with four Syrian kill marks on its nose.

Some unconfirmed reports suggest that Israeli F-15s participated in the October 1, 1985 raid against PLO headquarters in Tunis.

Following Desert Storm, Israel received a batch of early production block F-15As from the USAF that were not scheduled for the MSIP (Multi-Stage Improvement Program) and would otherwise be scrapped or placed in storage. These deliveries supposedly took place as a quid pro quo for Israel's decision not to retaliate against Iraqi Scud launches during the Gulf War. It is uncertain what purpose these aircraft will be used for or even if they will be upgraded. Perhaps they are being used for spare parts sources for the IDF/AF fleet of F-15s.

The older IDF/AF F-15A/B fighters have had their computer systems and avionics upgraded to F-15C/D standards. They have been progressively updated with locally-built equipment, which brings them up to roughtly F-15A MSIP stanndards. Under a program known as Baz Meshopar (Improved Eagle), Israeli Eagles have been progressively upgraded and modified with more modern and more capable electronic systems. These upgrades included the addition of a Global Positioning System/Intertial Navigation System and a Display and Sight Helmet (DASH) cueing system. The upgrade included modifications that made the Israeli F-15 capable of carrying and launching the AIM-120 AMRAAM and the indigenous Rafael Python 4 air-to-air missile.

Two IDF/AF F-15 squadrons exist, 133 Squadron which flies early-model As and Bs, and 106 Squadron which flies later-model Cs and Ds. To date, the IDF/AF claims to have shot down more than 56 opposing aircraft with the F-15. Several F-15s have achieved multiple kills, including F-15C 80 (80-0129) which has a total of six Syrian kills to its credit. No Israeli F-15s have been lost in combat, but at least three have been lost in training accidents.

On January 27, 1994, the Israeli government announced that they intended to purchase the F-15I, which was a version of the F-15E Strike Eagle designed specifically for Israel. The F-15I is similar to the F-15E, but has some electronic components adjusted to meet Israeli requirements. Many of these components were to be built in Israel. A contract was signed on May 12, 1994 between the governments of the United States and Israel authorizing McDonnell Douglas to build 21 F-15Is for the IDFAF. The first examples were delivered in November of 1997. In order to ensure a night-fighting capability, the F-15Is will be fitted with some of the 30 Sharpshooter targeting pods intended for Israel's F-16 fleet. Israel will then buy new LANTIRN pods to complete the F-15I's night vision suite.

The F-15I is known as Ra'am (Thunder) in IDF/AF service. They serve with No 69 Squadron Hammers at Hatzerim AB.

Sources:


  1. McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Since 1920, Volume II, Rene J. Francillon, Naval Institute Press, 1990.

  2. Observers Aircraft, William Green and Gordon Swanborough, Frederick Warne, 1992.

  3. Combat Aircraft F-15, Michael J. Gething and Paul Crickmore, Crescent Books, 1992.

  4. Israeli Air Power Into the 1990s, Tim Ripley, Air International, Vol 45 No 3, 1993.

  5. From ALKALI to AAM-L, Part 2, Piotr Butowski, Air International, November 1994.

  6. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Aircraft Armament, Bill Gunston Orion, 1988.

  7. The American Fighter, Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers, Orion, 1987.

  8. The World's Great Interceptor Aircraft, Gallery Books, 1989.

  9. F-15 Eagle, Robert F. Dorr, World Airpower Journal, Volume 9, Summer 1992.

  10. F-15 Eagle Variants Briefing, Gjon D. Gresham, World Air Power Journal, Vol 33, Summer 1998.

  11. F-15 Eagle On View, Air Forces Monthly, May 1999.

  12. Steve Davies, Migrating Eagles, Air International May 2004 Vol 66 No 5, p22.