Could Israel’s Lavi project be revived?

From the “curiouser and curiouser” files: an update on ECA Program’s pitch to provide an Integrated Opposing Force (IOPFOR) capability to support fighter pilot training for NATO nations.

The Amsterdam-based outfit issued a press release while I was away on leave, announcing its overdue selection of a candidate aircraft to deliver the proposed future aggressor service. And while it had previously raised eyebrows by naming the Chengdu J-10 and RAC MiG-35 as possible solutions, alongside the more plausible Saab Gripen, the 9 August statement made even those look pretty tame.

“ECA Program is ready to procure 36 advanced, single engine jets from Israeli Aircraft Industries, with 12 more under option,” the company says. Interesting; especially as IAI (correct name Israel Aerospace Industries), doesn’t even have a fighter aircraft in production.

No problem though, as ECA says it would acquire the “Lavi-2″; a notional further development of an Israeli combat aircraft which was heavily inspired by the Lockheed Martin F-16 (and was also remarkably similar in appearance to China’s later J-10) and cancelled some 25 years ago (Israeli air force image below).

Lavi 560.jpgAn ECA official is quoted as saying: “Although the [Sukhoi] Su-35 and other fourth generation fighters are formidable aircraft, they will no longer have any real relevance beyond the 2020 horizon.”

Although it would be produced “specifically for training support”, the suggested Lavi-2 would offer a top speed of over Mach 2.2, including supercruise performance, ECA says. Also thrown into the proposition would be advanced systems including an active electronically scanned array radar, signature management techniques, helmet-mounted designators and countermeasures equipment, it claims.

The IOPFOR scheme already looked a bit eccentric when I filed a blog post about it on The DEW Line on 4 May, but ECA’s selection of an aircraft which does not exist raises further doubts about the chances of this idea ever getting off the ground.

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