IAI selling upgraded Kfir jets for $20m

Israel Aerospace Industries promises very short delivery schedules for the renovated jets, which it claims are even better than fourth-generation jets.

Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) (TASE: ARSP.B1) is trying to sell dozens of Kfir fighter jets to foreign air forces, offering a 40-year manufacturer's guarantee. The veteran jets are equipped with new avionics and powerful radars developed by IAI unit Elta Systems, diversified armaments, updated electronic warfare systems, and air-to-air refueling.

IAI has told its sales reps to sell the Kfirs to Eastern European countries that are due to join NATO. Other buyers are Latin American and Asian air forces, which are seeking combat jets that can take out targets with the precision of fourth-generation jets, such as the F-16, but cannot afford them.

IAI has produced several hundred Kfirs since the 1970s. The Israel Air Force used them for air defense missions and ground attack, mostly in Lebanon. Foreign sources say that the Kfir is no longer in service with the Air Force, and the jet was replaced by F-15s and F-16s.

Dozens of Kfirs were sent to IAI for storage, and others are used for test flights or were upgraded and sold to Colombia, Ecuador, and Sri Lanka. The US Air Force also procured Kfirs to simulate enemy planes in pilot training. These air forces reportedly have dozens of Kfirs in service.

IAI declines to disclose the names of the countries with which it is in talks for the sale of upgraded Kfirs, but it promises very short delivery schedules for the renovated jets. "It took us just three years to deliver an entire squadron for the Colombia Air Force, and at a third of the price of a fourth-generation single engine jet fighter. The upgraded Kfir provides just as good an answer as fourth-generation jets, and in some cases, even better," IAI Lahav Division general manager Yosef Melamed told "Globes".

Each upgraded Kfir costs $20 million, including accessories: new wiring; a cockpit equipped for day and night operations and in poor weather conditions; and air-to-air refueling for long-range missions.

"The Kfir we're supplying today has state-of-the-art computers developed just in the past two years, which enable better performance that fourth-generation planes with obsolescent computers. Thanks to our innovative up-to-date avionics, an Israeli pilot who flew the Kfir in the 1980s wouldn’t be able to do very much with it today. It's simply a different plane," says Oren Aviram, who is tasked with marketing the Kfir for IAI.

"An Israeli pilot getting into the cockpit of a Colombia Air Force Kfir would know how to operate the engine and fly, but he would know nothing about the avionics. To operate the plane's systems efficiently, a pilot needs one year of training. He should be digitally proficient and, if possible, aged 20-30, otherwise he really won't get along."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 6, 2013

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013

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