Israel will embark on a “deep” upgrade of its Boeing F-15I Ra’am fleet as it looks to maintain the type as the backbone of its air force’s strike capability, despite the parallel acquisition of the Lockheed Martin F-35, reported flightglobal.com.
The enhancement has been mooted for some time, but Tel Aviv has recently given the green light to the programme.
Modifications will include structural changes, the addition of an active electronically-scanned array (AESA) radar, updated avionics and new, unspecified weapon systems.
A selection process for the radar is ongoing, with a decision due mid-year. It is thought Israel favours the Raytheon APG-82(V)1 radar selected by the US Air Force for its F-15Es.
The Ra’am’s advanced systems include an APG-70 radar with terrain mapping capability. The sharp picture that the APG-70 provides, regardless of weather conditions and light, makes it possible to locate targets that are otherwise very hard to find – i.e. missile batteries, tanks and structures – even under such adverse conditions as complete fog cover, heavy rain or moonless nights.
Another important system that the plane is equipped with is the LANTIRN, which makes it possible to acquire targets and lock guided munitions on them, in both day and nighttime. The LANTIRN system is comprised of a navigation pod and a guidance pod. The navigation pod holds a FLIR night vision sensor and a terrain-following radar, that enable the plane to fly at high speed at low altitude and warn of approaching obstacles. The guidance pod houses a FLIR sensor for locating targets in nighttime and a laser designator. The FLIR sensor makes it possible to follow targets at long range, the laser marker is used with laser-guided munitions.
The Ra’am is capable of carrying 4½ tons of fuel in its internal tanks, conformal tanks, and detachable tanks. The armaments it carries are positioned so that there is almost no disruption of the plane’s aerodynamic shape – and no impeding of its performance. These factors combine with others to enable the Ra’am to fly to an unprecedented distance, one which was previously attained only by much larger bombers: about 4,450 km. With midair refueling, the range can be extended further.
The Ra’am is capable of carrying a very wide range of weapons. It is equipped with a 6 barrelled Vulcan 20 mm. cannon, and can carry different kinds of air-to-air missiles for self defence. Since its primary function is the attack of quality targets, the Ra’am is designed to carry various types guided missiles and bombs, as well as iron bombs. All in all, the plane can carry 11 tons of munitions.