The prospects and hurdles of a new fighter aircraft upgrade surge

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) expects a surge in demand for upgrades of old fighter aircraft and helicopters in coming years.

The company believes that after a relatively slow period in the upgrade business, the market is going to become a “meaningful” part of its international portfolio.

Industry experts said the assessment is that demand will largely come from operators of older versions of the F-16, and Russian-made fighter aircraft and helicopters.

“Air forces understand that a relatively old platform equipped with [an] advanced system can achieve a lot of performance,” one expert said.

Since the last “wave” of upgrades in the 90′s, IAI and other Israeli companies have managed to develop systems to answer a lot of mission requirements with less volume and weight.

These are now being offered to some potential customers that want to prolong the service life of their fighter aircraft and helicopter fleets for at least 20 more years.

The list of downsized systems is long. Some of the systems that will now be offered for upgrades are the result of an effort made in recent years to tailor many such systems for use on unmanned air systems (UAS).

The fact that IAI is a major UAS manufacturer – and also in the fighter aircraft upgrade business – will result in some interesting upgrades.

There is one problem with the expected surge of fighter upgrades, however – Russian manufacturers of fighter aircraft that in the past left the upgrade market to Western companies have changed their policies, and may now try to upgrade the platforms they manufactured many years ago.

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