Israeli Eagles: F-15 A/B/C/D/I

Published: January 21st, 2021     
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Author: Amos Dor
Reviewed by: George Cully - IPMS# 2290
ISBN #: 978-88-95011-18-9
Other Publication Information: hardbound, 238 pp., 450+ color photos, 15 color sideview profiles
Price: $60.00
Product provided by: Casemate Publishers

The air campaigns of the Yom Kippur War (October 6-25, 1973) and their accompanying attrition rates encouraged the Israeli Air Force (IAF) to consider how best to augment and later replace its existing fleets of Dassault Mirage and McDonnell Douglas F-4 fighter aircraft. They faced a choice between quantity in the near term versus quality in the far term: whether to build more Israeli Aircraft Industry Kfirs and buy additional F-4Es from the U.S. immediately, or to acquire something more advanced, even if that took longer - and cost more money.

In June 1974, Israel's then-Defense Minister Shimon Peres obtained permission from the Nixon Administration for an IAF team to conduct an unofficial 'fly-off' between the Grumman F-14 and the McDonnell Douglas F-15. The Eagle won: its performance was impressive, it was less expensive and easier to maintain, and it had sufficient unrefueled range to interdict shipping in the Strait of Bab-El-Mandeb (which connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden), not to mention the ability to strike important sites in Libya and Iran.

That December, the U.S. Government officially proposed to sell 48 Eagles to Israel delivered at the rate of two aircraft per month beginning at the end of 1975, but rising tensions between Israel and Egypt in the following spring persuaded the Ford Administration to freeze the deal as a part of its Middle East policy "reevaluation." The Israeli Government's subsequent agreements to withdraw military forces from Sinai and to return some oil fields to Egypt smoothed things over, and in September 1975 the U.S. agreed to sell 25 F-15s - 23 F-15As and 2 F-15Bs -- to Israel for $625 million dollars under a program called Peace Fox. The first four examples - taken from the F-15 prototype fleet and upgraded by McDonnell Douglas so as not to interfere with programmed USAF F-15A deliveries - arrived in Israel in December 1976. The IAF nicknamed the new aircraft 'Baz', the Hebrew word for Falcon.

Peace Fox I was concluded in 1978, but the demand remained, and Israel bought 15 more Eagles - a mix of C and D models - in February 1978 under Peace Fox II. Another sale of eleven F-15C/D aircraft, Peace Fox III, followed two months later. A single F-15A was handed over as an attrition aircraft in 1982. Peace Fox IV and V, approved in 1991 and 1992 respectively, transferred an additional 27 F-15s; all were A, B or D models. In sum, the IAF obtained 79 F-15A/B/D aircraft under the Peace Fox program. These were apportioned between two IAF squadrons: the 106th ("Spear's Spike") and the 133rd ("Knights of the Twin Tail").

In 1991, while on an official tour of stateside USAF bases, the IAF's commanding general was given an opportunity to fly in the two-seat F-15E Strike Eagle, the newest, most advanced F-15 variant. Greatly impressed, he began to push for the IAF's acquisition of that airplane immediately upon his return to Tel Aviv. The George H. W. Bush Administration was unreceptive, but the Clinton Administration took a different view. In May 1994, under the auspices of Peace Fox VI, Israel received permission to buy 21 Strike Eagles - to be designated F-15I as modified for IAF service -- and a soon-exercised option for four more, for a total of 25. The sales price, which included ten LANTIRN pods and spare Pratt & Whitney F100 engines, came to about $2 billion. A third IAF F-15 squadron, the 69th ("The Hammers") was activated to deploy the F-15I, which the IAF nicknamed 'Ra'am', meaning Thunder in Hebrew. Deliveries began in November 1997, and the squadron acquired its last two Ra'ams in June 1999.

Wear, tear and loss take their toll on any fighting force, and the IAF's F-15 fleet is no exception: the IAF has written off at least seven of its F-15A/B/D aircraft in operations or accidents. Replacing them was facilitated by the Obama Administration's gift of nine 'high time' F-15Ds in 2016. At least two of these aircraft have been fully refurbished and returned to active IAF service.

Amos Dor's text is a valuable resource. It describes the IAF's use of the F-15 in several ways. First, as summarized above, it provides a full history of the Peace Fox program. Second, it presents detailed chronological service histories for all three F-15 squadrons (although the use of the F-15I by the 69th Squadron is caveated by the words "To the author's regret, not all of the activities of the "Hammers" can be made public."), and it includes tables listing the IAF's F-15s by serial and identifying all official IAF F-15 aerial victory credits by date, pilot, unit and so forth. Finally, it offers a truly superb imagery collection of F-15s in IAF service, including multiple color photos of various aircraft shown at different times in their service showing paint schemes and marking details. All of these aircraft are identified by IAF serial and individual nickname.

If you're considering building a Baz or a Ra'am, you really ought to think about buying this book. As a postscript, the publisher identifies this text as "Israeli Air Force No. 1", suggesting that there will be follow-on titles. Can we hope for something on the F-16I?

Thanks to Casemate for providing the review sample.

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