Thanks to its ability to carry a large weapon load, be very flexible and equipped with a sophisticated avionics system, the F-15I Ra’am fighter is even more trusted by Israeli pilots than the F-35I Adir.

Since launching Operation Iron Sword in response to Hamas attacks, the Israeli Air Force has deployed virtually all of its available combat aircraft day and night, dropping hundreds of tons of bombs and ammunition on Hamas targets, causing thousands of casualties. Recognized as one of the most combat-experienced air forces, the IAF is also one of the best equipped in the region. The majority of the fighter fleet consists of F-15s and F-16s, in many variants. Thanks to its ability to carry a large weapon load, be very flexible and equipped with a sophisticated avionics system, the F-15I Ra’am fighter is even more trusted by Israeli pilots than the F-35I Adir.

Israel was the first export customer for the legendary F-15 Eagle, operating the model since 1977. Its fleet is divided in two main “branches”: the F-15 “Baz”, with all the variants from A to D, and in the late 1990s Israel acquired the F-15E Strike Eagle, named Ra’am (thunder). The Baz has been upgraded throughout the years, bringing the aircraft to the Baz 2000 configuration with multifunction displays, AESA radar and the ability to employ air-to-ground ordnance, giving them capabilities somewhat similar to the ones of the more advanced Ra’am.

According to Theaviationist, A typical configuration for the F-15s in this air campaign seems to be an armament of three GBU-31(V)1 JDAM bombs, loaded on the centerline and wing stations, and the Elta ELL-8222 ECM pod. External fuel tanks are not being used, while air-to-air weapons are not always present and limited to a couple of missiles.

Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), one of the main weapons used by Israeli jets in the counteroffensive against Hamas. Developed by McDonnell Douglas, it is a kit that transforms a conventional bomb into an intelligent weapon, guided by GPS. The JDAM can be adapted to all bombs in the Mk.80 series, the largest of which is the Mk.84, which when equipped with the JDAM becomes the GBU-31.

There are 84 aircraft in service, divided between three squadrons: Spearhead, Hammers and Twin-Tail Knights, in addition to the Flight Test Center. In 2020, the IAF signed the purchase of 25 F-15EX jets, a newer version of the Eagle, and also plans to upgrade its F-15Is to the new standard.

The F-15 is large and flexible enough that engineers can upgrade it to a multi-role combat platform. In May 1994, the Israeli Air Force signed a contract to buy 25 aircraft from the US with the designation F-15I. Israel had a lot of requests to modify this fighter. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), worked with manufacturer Boeing to supply a variety of avionics developed by Israel itself.

The F-15I Raam has received major upgrades such as new fuel tanks that provide increased range to attack long-range targets. Air-to-air or air-to-ground capabilities are enhanced. The F-15I has a number of features that are uniquely Israeli. The aircraft uses a central computer, an inertial navigation system and GPS, the Elbit Systems Display and sight helmet. In addition, the F-15I is equipped with the Israeli Elisra SPS-2110 electronic warfare equipment.

The F-15I can carry all the weapons that the Israeli F-15A is equipped with, and also some new weapons developed by Israel itself. Thanks to the modified airframe, the F-15I can carry up to 8.1 tons of fuel and weapons. The first F-15I entered the Israeli Air Force in 1997, and the order was completed in 1999. The F-15I has served continuously in the Israeli Air Force for more than twenty years, not only in exercises but in wars such as the 2006 Lebanon War, the war in the Gaza Strip, the air strikes on Syrian territory.

In 2016, Israel announced a program to upgrade the F-15I, including a new generation of active electronically scanned array radar, updated avionics to be compatible with the F- 35 just arrived. It is very likely that Israel will continue to buy some new F-15Is. If that becomes a reality, these new planes will operate until 2070. And so, Israel will be the country that continuously exploits the F-15 within a century; That’s really a record for an aircraft from the early 1970s.

All Israeli Air Force combat aircraft are being actively used to attack targets inside the Gaza Strip, in addition to the strikes performed by the AH-64 fleet. Surveillance aircraft are also likely being employed, such as the Nachshon fleet, and at least one tanker was tracked online via Mode-S, along with remotely piloted aircraft.

In addition to the F-15 fleet, Israel is one of the operators of the F-16, having acquired 362 units of the model since its first purchase in 1978. Since then, the F-16 has been a workhorse, operating in both the air-to-air and air-to-ground arenas. Also according to Theaviationist, It appears the F-16s are flying in a heavier configuration than the F-15s, typically with four GBU-31(V)1 JDAMs bombs, in addition to a centerline external fuel tank and up to two air-to-air missiles.

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