It was reported that the Lavi project was shared with China to create the J-10 fighter. Of course China denied any involvement between J-10 and Lavi.
Israel is a small country in the Middle East. However, the country’s military, especially the air force, has the region’s leading combat power. In the 1950s, the Israeli army often used weapons purchased from Europe, mainly Britain and France. Since the 1960s, the Israeli air force has served as the center of its defense power, bringing a great advantage to Israel on the battlefield.
The Isarael Air Force’s dominance of the Middle East stems from its basic combat training, the weakness of the enemies and the flexible approach to weapons design and procurement.
In 1967, France’s arms embargo on Israel created a difficult situation for Tel Aviv. Over the years, the Israelis have tried many strategies to strengthen air power with aircrafts bought from the United States, and even made aircraft themselves.
Like the Soviet Union or the United States, Israel believes that an air force that owns a variety of aircraft will best meet operational requirements. This led to the development of the Lavi during the 1980s, a multirole jet fighter to complement the F-15 Eagle and F-4 Phantom that Israel imported from the United States.
Israel’s Lavi had been equipped with some US-licensed technology, it seems like an F-16 with modified wing design. But life is not like a dream. Developing a completely new and more advanced fighter jet than the F-16 required a huge investment and the budget for this aircraft was exhausted.
Moreover, contrary to optimism of Lavi’s export capabilities, the United States obviously would not allow Israel to export a fighter jet with important parts sourced from the US. And a Lavi was created to compete with the F-16, making matters even more serious.
In August 1987, Israel decided to stop the Lavi project, creating a demonstration of project participants. Political efforts to restore the project were also unsuccessful and Israel still had to import a large number of F-16 aircraft.
To date, only two Lavi prototypes have been completed in a total of five, one at the Israeli Air Force museum at Hatzerim Airbase and the other currently at the base of the Israeli Aircraft Industry Group at the Ben Gurion airport.
The name of the aircraft, the Lavi, means “Young Lion”. When the project began, the aircraft was planned to be a fourth-generation multi-role jet engine, acting as the mainstay of the Israeli air force. In total, Isarael spent up to $ 1.5 billion on this project.
The Israeli fighter had a length of 14.57m, a wingspan of 8.78m and a height of 4.78m. The empty weight was 7 tons and the maximum take-off weight was 19.2 tons.
The uniqueness of its design was a combination of a small, aerodynamic, highly maneuverable aircraft, with sophisticated electronic systems, and the ability to carry a large payload at high speed and over long distances.
Both single-seat and two-seat versions were developed, of which the two-seate version was expected to be combat-capable two-seat trainers. Lavi’s appearance was considerable similarities to the American F-16 fighters, which was slightly smaller in size.
Early on, IAI decided to adopt a delta wing configuration, of which the company was already familiar with through its work on the earlier Kfir, which was paired with large, steerable canards situated forward of the wing. The main wings were sweepback along both their leading and trailing edges. The wing tips were designed for the installation of short-range air-to-air missiles AIM-9 Sidewinder or similar. The canard generated additional lift and positive control when at high angles of attacks.
This design gave the aircraft great maneuverability, but it also caused natural instability during the flight. To compensate, the Lavi was equipped with sophisticated digital fly-by-wire systems that allow the aircraft to take advantage of this special wing design while eliminating this shortcoming.
The cockpit was located behind the long slender nose, under a large bubble-canopy, providing great visibility for the pilots. Under the cockpit was an engine air intake, took the form of a plain chin type scoop with a splitter plate, quite similar to the F-16.
The long tubular fuselage offered extremely high aerodynamic efficiency. A single exhaust was fitted at the tail with a single vertical fin above it, and below it were two ventral fins. The undercarriage was a conventional arrangement with the nose wheel placed aft of the intake and retracted rearwards, the light-weight main gear mounted on the fuselage.
Powerplant and performance
The Lavi was equipped with a single Pratt & Whitney PW1120 turbofan jet engine capable of generating 91.5 Kilonewton thrust with afterburner, enabling the aircraft to reach a maximum speed of Mach 1.6. Lavi had a range of 3,700 km, a service ceiling of 15,240m, a rate of climb of 254 meters per second.
Compared to its contemporaries, the level of integration of avionics and electronics on Lavi was thought to be “more computerised than any other system in the world”.
In addition to being the first fighter to employ fully digital flight controls, this fighter was also equipped with advanced pulse Doppler radar. The avionics suite was almost entirely Israeli-designed, and uses a modular design capable of adding upgrades through the Elbit ACE-4 mission computer.
Primary mission for this aircraft was close air support and interdiction. It was armed with a single 30-mm cannon and could carry over 7 tons of missiles and bombs on 11 hardpoints and two wingtip rails.
The end of the project
Although a potential project, Israel’s ambition was soon stopped due to financial difficulties and political factors from the United States. In August 1987, Israel decided to end the Lavi project. It was reported that the Lavi project was shared with China to create the J-10 fighter. Of course China denied any involvement between J-10 and Lavi.
Despite the failure of the Lavi project, it was the premise for the Israeli aviation industry to have great success after that. Later, instead of pursuing building an airplane of its own, Israel improved the fighters purchased from the United States. The F-15I “Thunder” or F-16I “Storm” have major upgrades to optimize them for Israeli requirements. The Israeli Air Force is also making improvements to make the F-35 Joint Strike fighter better suited to its missions.
Israel’s aviation strategy depends on Israel’s relationship with the United States. This is true both in the identity of the aircraft and in technical development. Fortunately for Israel, the relationship between the United States and this country will be maintained for a long time.
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