Israel Aircraft Industries Kfir
The next stage after the Nesher was to go into production with a substantially improved aircraft with a largely new propulsion system, modified air-frame and totally replanned weapon-aiming, navigation and other electronic systems. The selected engine was the General Electric J79, of modified GE-17 subtype, rated at 8120 kg (17900 lb) with maximum afterburning. This required larger inlet ducts, a modified engine bay with ram-air inlet at the front of a new dorsal spine, and a wider but sharply cut-back rear fuselage. Other changes visible externally include a completely new nose with enlarged and flattened underside, com-pletely new cockpit, strengthened landing gear with increased oleo stroke, and rearranged external panels and hatches. Inside, the systems and equipment are considerably altered, the main changes being increased fuel capacity and totally dissimilar weapon control and aiming systems. Elta Electronics, an IAI subsidiary, has used a Singer-Kearfon licence, clearly indicative of an inertial system.
Following testing of J79 engines in an Israeli air force Mirage IIIB the first Kfir (Lion Cub) flew in 1974, and two were publicly shown at Lod airport in April 1975. Compared to the French Mirage III and Mirage 5 it has a more powerful engine, bigger engine air intakes, a longer nose, revised cockpit, Israeli avionics and systems and a fin air inlet located at the lower front end of the fin. The first production versions were designated Kfir-C1. Two Heyl Ha’Avir (Israeli air force) squadrons were equipped with this initial model, which retains the original armament of two 30-mm (1.18-in) DEFA cannon. Seven hardpoints can carry a wide range of external stores for interception, attack or reconnaissance missions, including Shafrir AAMs, Luz, Maverick or Hobos ASMs, Shrike antiradar missiles (ARMs), concrete-dibber penetrators, cluster bombs, ECM pods, multi-sensor reconnaissance pods, or tanks.
On July 20, 1976, at the Heyl Ha'Avir base at Hatzerim, Negev, IAI gave the first public display of the definitive production version, the Kfir-C2. Basically unchanged, this has three important aerodynamic improvements. A fixed canard surface, much larger than the ‘moustache’ retractable canards of the Mirage-Milan, and slightly swept back, is fitted high on each inlet completely out of the pilot's field of view. Along each side of the tip of the nose is a small strake, which induces a vortex at high angles of attack. At about 60% of the semispan is a dog tooth, the leading edge from there to the tip being extended in chord and drooped in a conical-camber arrangement. These changes are claimed to transform the flight capabilities to a new high level, with much tighter sustained turns, better handling (especially at overload weights), reduced low-level gust response, flatter and slower approach, better takeoff, reduced field length and greater weapon carrying capability. New avionics were introduced, including a new ranging radar, twin-computer flight control system, multi-mode navigation and weapons delivery system, central air data computer and HUD.
By mid-1978 about 150 Kfirs of all types had been built, with output still running at more than two per month. At least some of the early aircraft have been brought up to C2 standard. Ecuador's attempt to buy 24 Kfirs was vetoed by the US Government, and IAI has since been seeking an alternative engine.
The two seat TC2 entered production in February 1981. Two-seat Kfir-TC2 trainers feature a lengthened and lowered nose for improved view. The longer nose houses the avionics displaced from the C2's spine and is fitted with small vortex-generating strakes.
In 1985 the US Navy agreed a three-year lease of 12 Kfirs designated F-21As, for use as agressor aircraft pending the delivery of F-l6Ns. The USMC followed suit in 1986, with the lease of 13 Kfirs to fulfil a similar role. IAI is retrofit Kfirs from C2 to C7 standard. The C1s were modified adding narrow-span canard foreplanes above each air intake and a small rectangular strake either side of the nose behind the ranging radar. These additions greatly improved its combat manoeuvrability and slow speed handling.
Production of the latest Kfir-C7 advancd the two-seat TC7 began in 1983, and these are now the standard models. Externally similar to the earlier Kfir-C2, the C7 has an uprated J79-J1E engine giving a 4.4kN increase in augmented thrust, allowing a 1,540kg increase in maximum take-off weight. Thrust-to-weight ratio and combat radius are also improved. Avionics are upgraded with a new hands-on throttle-and-stick (Hotas) weapons delivery and navigation system, and a stores management/delivery system which is able to cope with smart weapons. The C7 has two additional hardpoints for the increased payload.
Kfir-C2/TC2 aircraft were upgraded to C7/TC7 standard. The C7 has a specially adapted version of the J79-GEJ1E with some 1,000 lb (454 kg) more afterburning thrust. The type has two extra hardpoints below the intake ducts and a number of advanced features including capability for the carriage and use of smart weapons, Elta EL/M-2021B pulse-Dopplar radar, a revised cockpit with more sophisticated electronics and HOTAS (Hands On Throttel And Stick) controls and provision for inflight-refueling. Maximum take-off weight is increased by 3,395 lb (1,540 kg), but combat radius and thrust-to-weight ratio are improved to a marked degree. The principal Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) system is the Elta EL/L-8202 advanced self-protection jammer.
The upgrade to Kfir-C10 standardwas developed for export. It features a new Elta EL/M-2032 multimode radar, capability to use a HMD (Helmet Mounted Display) and Python IV air-to-air missiles and two 127x177mm Multi-Function Displays produced by Astronautics.
IAI built 212 Kfirs, with 40 early Kfir-1s (many updated to Kfir-C1 spec), about 12 Kifr-TC2 trainers, and the rest Kfir-C2s.
Span: 8.22 m (27 ft)
Length: 15.55 m (51 ft)
Gross weight: 14600 kg (32188 1b)
Maximum speed: over 2335 km/h (1450 mph, Mach 2.2).
T/O run: 1450 m.
Ldg run: 1280 m.
Engine: 1 x General Electric J79-J1E afterburning turbojet 83.40 kN (18,750 lb st)
Installed thrust (dry / reheat): 52.9 / 83.3 kN.
Span: 8.22m (26 ft 11½ in)
Length: 15.65m (51 ft 4.25¼ in)
Height: 4.55m (14 ft 11.25in)
Wing area: 34.8 sq.m.
Empty, equipped weight: 7285 kg (16,060 lb)
MTOW: 16,500 kg (36,376 lb)
Warload: 6085 kg.
Max level speed at 10975m (36,000 ft): Mach 2.3 / 2440 km/h (1516 mph)
Time to height: 5min 10 sec to 15,000 m.
Service ceiling: 17680m (58,000 ft)
Combat radius hi-lo-hi: 1185 km.
Fuel internal: 3240 lt.
Air refuel: Yes.
Armament: 2 x 30 mm DEFA 553 / 140 rounds per gun, 6085 kg (13,415 lb) ordnance
Hard points: 9.