The Romanian Government has given the green light for $21 million of funding to begin upgrading 24 Romanian air force Avioane IAR-99 Soim jet trainers with Israeli avionics.

The upgrade, carried out by Avioane at its site in Craiova, Romania, in partnership with avionics suite supplier Elbit Systems, is due to be completed by 2001. According to the partners, production line preparations are "already in full swing".

A prototype of the upgraded aircraft was part of the flying display at the show. The aircraft, powered by a single Rolls-Royce Viper MK 632-41M, incorporates an avionics suite similar to that of the MiG-21 Lancer upgrade, carried out by Romania's Aerostar and Elbit.

The suite incorporates cathode ray tube multifunction displays, head-up display, display and sight helmet, modular multi-role computer and a defensive aids suite. The defensive aids include a radar warning receiver, chaff/flare dispensers and electronic counter measures.

Also included is an inertial navigation system from Litton Italy integrated with a Trimble global positioning satellite navigation system. Elbit has also installed an innovative virtual radar display, which processes navigation information transmitted by datalink from other aircraft fitted with the system, producing a simulated radar display in the cockpit for the Soim's pilot.

The system allows pilots to train in the use of radar in flight, without the necessity of fitting a real radar into the aircraft.

The aircraft is capable of carrying Rafael Python 3 air-to-air missiles, French Giat cannon pods and bombs on four underwing hardpoints, which allow it to be used to carry out air defence and close air support missions.

The original, all-Romanian IAR-99 first flew in 1984.

Source: Flight International