Old platform + modern avionics = new advanced trainer ?

Budget difficulties, especially severe ones, can result in a complete change of thinking. Even things that looked solid and unshakeable can suddenly generate new directions of thought – at least in the heads of some people.

This is at this stage it’s just a “murmur”, but this encapsulates the problem that the Israeli defence establishment faces.

Recent demonstrations against the government’s economic policy resulted in a major cut to the defence budget for next year. However, the cut came in a year in which the generals expected an increase in the budget, which is needed – according to them – to address potential threats in the changing Middle East.

One issue which was supposed to be decided and “get a line in the budget” is the procurement of an advanced trainer for the Israeli air force (IAF).

When the government was forced to slash the defence budget, this one issue was immediately affected.

At this stage, the issue of request for proposals (RFP) for the selection of an advanced trainer for the IAF was postponed. The RFP was ready to be sent to the manufacturers of the two final contenders – the Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 and the Aermacchi M-346.

Although the long-term plan is that a joint company formed of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit Systems would purchase the winning jet and sell flight hours to the IAF, this was put on hold at the last minute.

And here is where the “murmur” is gaining more volume. Some very experienced figures in the Israeli defence arena believe the plan to purchase the advanced trainer was a mistake from the beginning.

They base their view on the claim that the IAF has enough older fighter aircraft which could be equipped with new avionics and become good trainers.

The argument is supported by the fact that some systems developed in Israel can “inject” artificial inputs to the cockpit, so the trainee is put in a very realistic environment.

“The platform is not important, so why invest in it?” one of critics said on October 16.

It will not be easy to convince the IAF to give up its craving for a new shiny advanced trainer, but sometimes the circumstances dictate the reality.

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