The F-16I "Sufa" ("Storm") is a highly-localized twin-seat Israeli version of the classic General Dynamics (now Lockheed) F-16 "Fighting Falcon" lightweight multirole fighter. The design incorporates many unique features to make it largely Israeli in nature and updates key aspects of the already proven fighter. The F-16I is, at its heart, a direct evolution of the F-16 "Block 52" offering.
The formal IAF requirement for a such a fighter was born in September of 1997 and the F-16I design competed successfully against the service's other option - more F-15I Ra'am long-range strike platforms. The definitive selection being made during July of 1999. From there, 102 total F-16Is were placed on order by the IAF, resulting in a modified F-16 flying in prototype form on December 23rd, 2003. Deliveries to the Israeli air service began as soon as February of the following year.
The F-16I incorporates changes to its avionics, instrumentation, and weapons support (the APG-68(9) series radar fit in the nose and the Pratt & Whitney (PW) F100-PW-229 afterburning turbofan engine at the tail are both retained). About half of the existing aircraft's avionics set has been replaced with a customized suite and a new, locally-developed, Helmet-Mounted Sight (HMS) was introduced. Broadened weapon support for Israeli-made missiles, such as the Python 5 from Raphael, was also introduced during this design and development process. Beyond this, the airframe was modified to support conformal fuel tanks along either side of the dorsal line to improve operational ranges at the expense of additional weight.
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Lockheed Martin - USA / Elbit Systems; Israel Aerospace Industries - Israel Manufacturer(s)
1 x 20mm M61A1 internal automatic cannon.
2 x Short-range, air-to-air missiles on wingtip launchers.
Approximately 17,000lb of externally-held drop/launch stores across nine total hardpoints (three under each wing, three under the fuselage). Supported weapon systems include additional short-range or medium-range air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, precision-guided bombs, conventional drop bombs, and rocket pods. Also supported are 3 x Jettisonable drop tanks.
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