General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon for Israel

Last revised September 21, 2015


The F-16 Fighting Falcon is today the primary strike aircraft of the Tsvah Haganah le Israel/Heyl Ha'Avir (Israel Defense Force/Air Force).

Israel had been interested in the F-16 almost from the first, and had approached the US government to explore the possibility of ordering up to 250 examples, with 200 of them being built under license in Israel. However, these overtures had all been politely turned down, since the US government reserved delivery of its most advanced military equipment to only its NATO allies, plus South Korea and Iran.

In August of 1978, the US government changed its mind and the government of Israel was finally given permission to acquire 75 F-16A/Bs. This change of policy took place during the height of the Carter Administration's policy of placing severe restrictions on arms sales to a number of other nations. Such were the close ties to Israel (the fact that Israel had just signed the Camp David agreement with Egypt did not hurt) that an exception was granted.

The first F-16 deliveries to Israel took place under the Peace Marble I Foreign Military Sales program. The first 75 Fighting Falcons delivered to Israel were Block 5/10 F-16A/Bs. These planes had originally been intended for the Imperial Iranian Air Force, but the fall of the Shah in 1979 and the rise of the Islamic fundamentalist regime caused these planes to be diverted to Israel. These aircraft had a number of internal changes that were unique to Israeli requirements, including the fitting of chaff/flare dispensers. Many have been modified in the field with innovations specific to Israeli requirements. For example, they may have been provided with the Loral Rapport III electronic countermeasures equipment and new chaff/flare dispensers, possibly AN/ALE-40s. Some Israeli aircraft may have the Elta 2021B radar in place of the APG-66. Many of the airframes were upgraded with the larger Block 15 tailplanes to give increased pitch authority, and were given the improved wiring that was applied to the later Multi-Stage Improvement Program (MSIP).

The first four F-16s arrived in Israel in July of 1980. IOC was achieved a few weeks later. Combat debut of the F-16 was on April 28, 1981, when IDF/AF F-16s shot down two Syrian Mi-8 helicopters near the Lebanese town of Zahle.

On June 7, 1981, eight IDF/AF F-16s destroyed Iraq's Osirak (Tamuz) nuclear reactor near Baghdad, which shut down (at least temporarily) Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program. This involved a 1000-mile round-trip journey. The bombs used were conventional high-explosive bombs rather than laser-guided bombs because of the high accuracy of the F-16's bombing computer. Since the American government had not been consulted in advance about the Osirak attack, the Reagan administration publically denounced the raid as militarily reckless and temporarily held up a final batch of 22 F-16A/Bs to Israel. However, the embargo was lifted in August of 1981 and deliveries of F-16s to Israel were allowed to continue.

In 1983-84, F-16s played a key role in Operation Drugstore, an attack on Syrian missile sites in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Numerous missile sites were attacked and destroyed and many air battles with Syrian fighters took place. Israeli F-16s achieved a 44-0 ascendancy over Syrian MiGs during a series of air battles over Lebanon. One aircraft reportedly shot down four Syrian fighters in a single sortie. There is at least one IDF/AF F-16 with 6.4 Syrian kill insignia on its fuselage, plus one kill mark for an Iraqi nuclear reactor.

Under Peace Marble II, Israel was supplied with late-model F-16C/Ds. The first F-16C/Ds were received in October of 1987. These were Block 30 aircraft. 51 F-16Cs and 24 F-16Ds were delivered.

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-16Cs, 30 F-16Ds), plus an option for 15 more. This was under Peace Marble III. The first of these Fighting Falcons arrived in Israel in August of 1991. The serials of these planes are not yet known.

The baseline F-16A/B is known as Netz (Falcon) in IDF/AF service, whereas the F-16C is known as Barak (Lightning) and the F-16D is known as Brakeet (Thunderbolt). The As are primarily serving in the air defense role, but the C and D have an air-to-ground commitment.

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. Israeli F-16Cs have been fitted with a number of locally-produced avionics items including Elta EL/L-8240 electronics countermeasures equipment to replace the Loral Raport III, and AN/ALE-40 chaff/flare dispensers (or an indigenous equivalent) in place of the newer AN/ALE-47s found on C models used elsewhere. Israeli F-16Cs can be equipped with a locally- produced ACM debriefing system which is packaged into an inert AIM-9 airframe and uses a differential GPS to record the exact tracks of aircraft for replay during post-mission debriefings. Some Israeli F-16Cs may use an indigenous radar such as the Elta 2021B or 2032 in place of the APG-68. Israel Military Industries (IMI) has produced a special 600 US gallon underwing drop tank to replace the standard 370 US underwing drop tanks, which extends the combat radius of the F-16 by 50 percent. The maximum all-up weight of an Israeli F-16C is reportedly 48,000 pounds, as compared to 42,300 pounds for a USAF Block 40 F-16C.

All of the IDF/AF's F-16D two-seaters (both Block 30 and Block 40 aircraft) have been fitted with enlarged dorsal spines. Although the IDF/AF has not revealed exactly what is in these spines, they are believed to accommodate Wild Weasel electronic equipment which detects emissions from enemy radar sites and pinpoints their locations. Other speculation is that the "hump" on some of these aircraft is for a nuclear weapons delivery capability. Only the F-16D has the enlarged dorsal spine, the two-seat F-16B being similar to the USAF version.

Many IDF/AF F-16Cs and Ds have been upgraded to the more capable Block 40 standard, with provision for the LANTIRN system and the ability to carry and launch the HARM antiradiation missile.

For a long time, Israel could not receive any dedicated long-range strike aircraft such as the F-15E. Accordingly, many of the IDF/AF F-16Ds were modified as specialized precision strike and defense suppression aircraft. The rear seat carries a weapons system operator, and the long box-shaped spine carries additional electronics for use in the precision strike role.

The USAF has embarked upon a Coalition Force Enhancement (CFE) program in which older F-16s are sold abroad to generate cash for the purchase of newer models. The first customer for these older CFE F-16s was Israel. As payment for its restraint during the 1991 Gulf War, Israel was provided with 50 surplus USAF F-16A/Bs. The first of these were delivered on August 1, 1994. They were all Block 10 aircraft. The delivery was completed in late 1994. About half of these 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/Bs from the 157th Fighter Interceptor Squadron from the South Carolina ANG. These F-16A/Bs will be used primarily for training, but will undergo a number of modifications in Israel prior to entering IDF/AF service. They are intended to replace the last of the Kfir fighter bombers which have been placed in storage at Ovda to await resale to other nations.

A follow-on order for more F-16Cs and Ds was placed for delivery between 1997 and 1999. These will replace the Douglas A-4N Skyhawk, the McDonnell F-4E Phantom I, and probably the Kurnass 2000 as well.

On January 14, 2000, the government of Israel signed a contract with Lockheed Martin for the delivery of 50 F-16I aircraft under the Peace Marble V FMS program. The F-16I is a multi-role version of the F-16 built specifically to Israeli requirements, and will be built to Block 52 standards and will have a Northrop AN/APG-68(V)X fire-control radar and will be compatible with the LANTIRN system. The F-16I is known as the Suefa (Storm) in IDF/AF service. Deliveries of these aircraft took place between 2004 and 2009.

IDF/AF Fighting Falcons are to be fitted with the Rafael Litening infrared targeting and navigational pod to replace the similar Martin-Marietta Sharpshooter (which is a downgraded version of the Martin Marietta AN/AAQ-14, which is the targeting pod of the LANTIRN system). The Sharpshooter pods will be transferred to the F-15I Eagles which Israel is to receive from 1997.

The first F-16Is were delivered to the IDF/AF in February of 2004, and were issued to the Negev squadron, which officially re-formed at Ramon on July 27, 2003. The next unit to operate the F-16I is the Orange Tail Knights Squadron, also at Ramon, followed by the Bat Squadron.

IDF/AF F-16s participated in the 2006 Lebanon war and during attacks in the Gaza strip in December of 2008. During and after the 2006 Lebanon war, IDF/AF F-16s shot down Iranian-built drones launched by Hezbollah.

There is not much information available on squadron service for the F-16 within the IDF/AF. Israeli F-16s carry squadron badges and insignia, but these are rarely seen in public due to military censorship. Israel jealously guards its security and does not want to give away any more information than necessary to potential enemies. Nevertheless, some squadron information has appeared in unofficial sources. These are as follows:

F-16s delivered to Israel carry USAF serials, and they carry IDF/AF three-digit serial numbers on their tails. The serialing system is designed to create the impression that there are many more aircraft in service than there actually are. The F-16A/Bs of the first order were serialed 100 to 138 (with a number of gaps) for the Block 5 aircraft and 001/017 for the eight two-seat F-16Bs. The Block 10 F-16As were 219 to 299. Block 30 F-16Cs and Ds received serials in the range 301 to 399 and 020 to 083 respectively. There are numerous gaps and the numbers do not always follow the same sequential order as do the FMS serials. The 60 Block 40 aircraft so far delivered are serialed 502 through 558 for the Cs and 601 to 687 for the Ds. The surplus USAF F-16A/Bs that were delivered to Israel in the 1990s have been appearing in the 700-series serial range.

The last two digits of the aircraft serial number remain with the plane for its entire life. The initial digit can change according to the aircraft's modification state. No information has been made public by Israel concerning these serial number changes other than a couple of publicity photographs showing F-16Bs with serials in the 100 range which slot in around those numbers allocated to the Block 5 F-16As.

I am sure that the following list of serials is incomplete, and I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has additions or corrections.

USAF Serials of Israeli F-16s:

78-001/021		General Dynamics F-16A Block 1 Fighting Falcon 
				012 to Israel in 1990s
				014 to Israel in 1990s
				018 to Israel in 1990s.
78-077/098		General Dynamics F-16B Block 1 Fighting Falcon
				095 to Israel in 1990s.
78-099/115		General Dynamics F-16B Block 5 Fighting Falcon
				106 to Israel in 1990s.
				108 to Israel in 1990s.
				109 to Israel in 1990s.
				111 to Israel in 1990s.
				114 to Israel in 1990s.
				115 to Israel in 1990s.
78-0308/0325		General Dynamics F-16A Block 5 Fighting Falcon 
				exported to Israel, Peace Marble I
78-326/335		General Dynamics F-16A Block 10 Fighting Falcon 
				exported to Israel, Peace Marble I
78-336/345		General Dynamics F-16A Block 10A Fighting Falcon 
				exported to Israel, Peace Marble I
78-346/349		General Dynamics F-16A Block 10B Fighting Falcon 
				exported to Israel, Peace Marble I
78-350/354		General Dynamics F-16A Block 10C Fighting Falcon 
				exported to Israel, Peace Marble I
78-355/362		General Dynamics F-16B Block 5 Fighting Falcon 
				exported to Israel, Peace Marble I.
79-288			General Dynamics F-16A Block 5 Fighting Falcon
				to Israel in 1990s, Peace Marble I.
79-289/357		General Dynamics F-16A Block 10 Fighting Falcon
			 	289 to Israel in 1990s.
				291/293 to Israel in 1990s.
				295 to Israel in 1990s.	
				297 to Israel in 1990s.	
				299 to Israel in 1990s.	
				302 to Israel in 1990s.
				304 to Israel in 1990s.
				305 to Israel in 1990s.
				319/321 to Israel in 1990s.
				325 to Israel in 1990s.
				328 to Israel in 1990s.
				333 to Israel in 1990s.
				339 to Israel in 1990s.
				347 to Israel
				356 to Israel in 1990s.
79-358/385		General Dynamics F-16A Block 10A Fighting Falcon
				358 to Israel in 1990s.
				361 to Israel
				369 to Israel in 1990s.
79-410/419		General Dynamics F-16B Block 5 Fighting Falcon
				410 to Israel in 1990s.
79-420/423		General Dynamics F-16B Block 10 Fighting Falcon
  				423 to Israel in 1990s.
79-424/428		General Dynamics F-16B Block 10A Fighting Falcon
				424 and 425 to Israel in 1990s.
80-479/505		General Dynamics F-16A Block 10C Fighting Falcon
				491 to Israel in 1990s.
				501/503 to Israel in 1990s.
80-506/540		General Dynamics F-16A Block 10D Fighting Falcon
				514 to Israel in 1990s.
				516 to Israel in 1990s.
				517 to Israel in 1990s.
				532 to Israel in 1990s.
				534 to Israel in 1990s.
80-623/624		General Dynamics F-16B Block 10B Fighting Falcon
				624 to Israel in 1990s.
80-629/636		General Dynamics F-16B Block 10D Fighting Falcon
				632 to Israel in 1990s.
80-649/659		General Dynamics F-16A Block 10C Fighting Falcon 
				exported to Israel, Peace Marble I
80-660/668		General Dynamics F-16A Block 10D Fighting Falcon 
				exported to Israel, Peace Marble I
86-1598/1601		General Dynamics F-16C Block 30 Fighting Falcon 
				for Israel under Peace Marble II as 301, 
					304, 305, and 307
86-1602/1612		General Dynamics F-16C Block 30A Fighting Falcon 
				for Israel under Peace Marble II as 309,
					310,315,317,318,321,324,326,332,333, and 337.
87-1661/1664		General Dynamics F-16C Block 30A Fighting Falcon 
				for Israel under Peace Marble II as 340,
					341,344, and 343
87-1665/1679		General Dynamics F-16C Block 30B Fighting Falcon 
				To Israel under Peace Marble II as 348,349,
					350,353,355, 356,360,364,367,368,371,373,
					374,377,and 378
87-1680/1693		General Dynamics F-16C Block 30C Fighting Falcon 
				To Israel under Peace Marble II as 381,384,
					386,388,389,391,393,394,392,397,399,383,385,
					and 376.
87-1694			General Dynamics F-16D Block 30A Fighting Falcon 
				for Israel under Peace Marble II as 020
87-1695/1698		General Dynamics F-16D Block 30D Fighting Falcon 
				for Israel under Peace Marble II
87-1699/1708		General Dynamics F-16D Block 30E Fighting Falcon 
				for Israel under Peace Marble II as 036,022,
				041,045,039,046,050,057,061, and 055.
88-1709/1710 		General Dynamics F-16C Block 30C Fighting Falcon 
				for Israel under Peace Marble II as 359 and 313
88-1711			General Dynamics F-16C Block 30D Fighting Falcon
				for Israel under Peace Marble II as 329
88-1712/1720 		General Dynamics F-16D Block 30F Fighting Falcon 
				for Israel under Peace Marble II as 065,069,
					070,072,074,077/079,083
89-0277			General Dynamics F-16C Block 40H Fighting Falcon
				to Israel under Peace Marble III as 502
90-0850/0854		General Dynamics F-16C Block 40H Fighting Falcon 
				sold to Israel as 503,506,508,511,512 under
				Peace Marble III
90-0855/0862		General Dynamics F-16C Block 40H Fighting Falcon 
				sold to Israel as 514,516,519,520,522,523
					525,527 under Peace Marble III
90-0863/0870		General Dynamics F-16C Block 40K Fighting Falcon 
				sold to Israel as 528,530,531,534,535,536
					538,539 under Peace Marble III
90-0871/0874		General Dynamics F-16C Block 40L Fighting Falcon 
				sold to Israel as 542,543,546,547 under
					Peace Marble III
90-0875/0878		General Dynamics F-16D Block 40H Fighting Falcon
				sold to Israel as 601,603,606,610 under
					Peace Marble III
90-0879/0886		General Dynamics F-16D Block 40J Fighting Falcon
				sold to Israel as 612,615,619,621,624,628,
					630,633 under Peace Marble III
90-0887/0894		General Dynamics F-16D Block 40K Fighting Falcon
				sold to Israel as 637,638,642,647,648,651,
					652,656 under Peace Marble III.
90-0895/0898		General Dynamics F-16D Block 40L Fighting Falcon
				sold to Israel as 660,664,666,667 under
					Peace Marble III.
91-486/489		General Dynamics F-16C Block 40L Fighting Falcon
				to Israel as 551,554,557,558, Peace Marble III
91-490/495		General Dynamics F-16D Block 40L Fighting Falcon
				to Israel as 673,676,678,682,684,687, Peace
				Marble III
99-9400/9451		Lockheed Martin F-16D Block 52 Fighting Falcon
				MSN YD-51/YD-102.  For Israel under Peace Marble V.
				9400 IDFAF 107
				9401 IDFAF 803
				9402 IDFAF 808
				9403 IDFAF 811
				9404 IDFAF 813
				9405 IDFAF 816
				9406 IDFAF 823
				9407 IDFAF 826
				9408 IDFAF 827
				9409 IDFAF 833
				9410 IDFAF 836
				9411 IDFAF 839
				9412 IDFAF 843
				9413 IDFAF 844
				9414 IDFAF 846
				9415 IDFAF 848
				9416 IDFAF 849
				9417 IDFAF 851
				9418 IDFAF 852
				9419 IDFAF 854
				9420 IDFAF 855
				9421 IDFAF 857
				9422 IDFAF 858
				9423 IDFAF 860
				9424 IDFAF 862
				9425 IDFAF 863
				9426 IDFAF 201
				

I don't have a complete correlation table between USAF and IDF/AF serial numbers. Can anyone help?

The following is a table of IDF/AF F-16 losses of which I am aware. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who has additions or corrections.

The IDF/AF plans to sell off its older F-16A/B aircraft to foreign customers, or scrap them if no buyers are found. The aging F-16A/B aircraft were planned to be decommissioned in 2017 with the arrival of the first F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fightrer aircraft.

Sources:


  1. Combat Aircraft F-16, Doug Richardson, Crescent, 1992.

  2. General Dynamics Aircraft and their Predecessors, John Wegg, Naval Institute Press, 1990.

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

  4. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  5. F-16 Fighting Falcon--A Major Review of the West's Universal Warplane, Robert F. Dorr, World Airpower Journal, Spring 1991.

  6. The World's Great Interceptor Aircraft, Gallery, 1989.

  7. Modern Military Aircraft--F-16 Viper, Lou Drendel, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1992.

  8. Lockheed F-16 Variants, Part 1, World Airpower Journal, Volume 21, Summer 1995.

  9. Airscene Headlines, Air International, April 1994, p 170.

  10. Israeli Air Power into the 1990s, Tim Ripley, Air International, September 1993, page 128.

  11. News Headlines, Air Forces Monthly, April 2004.

  12. General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Dynamics_F-16_Fighting_Falcon