In the late 1970s, Israel's thinking focused on upgrading its aging inventory of Douglas A-4 Skyhawks and IAI "Kfir" fighter-bombers with more modern designs focused on low cost and complexity. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) request is for 300 of these aircraft, including two-seat trainer types.
With Israel constantly at war with its Arab neighbors, time is of the essence.
Development began in the early 1980s, and the overall design was initially directly influenced by IAF input. The new light aircraft will have an inherent ground attack capability while retaining full air-to-air combat capability and has the opportunity to further develop the design into an advanced jet trainer.
It is hoped that most of the aircraft can be developed and produced locally to help Israel become more self-sufficient militarily (and strengthen its economy). Based on experience with Pratt & Whitney engines on other IAF aircraft, the brand will power the new jet.
Despite gaining momentum from the Lavi project, some in the Israeli ranks are not supportive of the product, seeing as existing, off-the-shelf F-16s can already do anything Lavi can handle. In addition, there are factors within the U.S. government and defense industry, notably competing airline groups, who see Lavi as a direct threat to global market share -- especially after Israel's decision to launch its new aircraft on the world stage.
Under U.S. political pressure, the Israeli government voted narrowly to abolish Lavi. The United States rewards the country with concessions in future military deals and continued regional support. This led to the procurement of 90 F-16 (Type C) Fighting Falcons, effectively ending the Lavi program in 1987 - with only two prototypes and three incomplete airframes left for display. A third prototype was added to the inventory when parts of the fourth and fifth airframes were cannibalized. This supplement is intended only for technical demonstrations to test and evaluate critical systems and subsystems used in other programs.
The two remaining prototypes survived from the scrap burner as well-preserved exhibits.
Since then, some industry analysts have found similarities between the relatively new Chengdu "J-10" multirole fighter jet adopted by the Chinese Air Force and the discontinued Lavi product, sparking discussions of technology transfer between the two countries (Lavi includes some protected US system). There's no official word on whether the two sides have reached a formal partnership agreement and probably never, but a side-by-side comparison will certainly reveal some similarities between the designs - albeit on the surface.
- Close Air Support (CAS)
- X-Plane / Development
28.81 ft (8.78 m)
15.68 ft (4.78 m)
1,221 mph (1,965 km/h; 1,061 knots)
50,000 ft (15,240 m; 9.47 mi)
2,299 miles (3,700 km; 1,998 nautical miles)
50,000 ft/min (15,240 m/min)
1 x 30mm DEFA inner gun
Up to 16,000 lbs of outboard bearings are held in place by a total of 11 hard points - 7 under the fuselage, 4 under the wings, plus wingtip brackets (wingtip brackets are used for short-range AAM only).
Lavi - Name of the base series; three prototypes completed.