Why is the F-15I platform essential for the IAF (Israel Air Force)?
After years of stalling in January, the Israeli Defense Ministry publicly ordered 25 F-15EX fighters from the United States. Several defense publications have reported that the Israeli government has initiated the Foreign Military Sale procedure by sending a Letter of Request (LOR) to the United States.
According to Breaking Defense, Israel’s purchase of the new combat platform was slowed by the country’s persistent political instability, which has resulted in five general elections in less than four years.
Although the first deliveries of the F-15EX are not expected until 2028, the Israeli government is expected to request that the order be expedited. Israel is also requesting the upgrade of its current fleet of 25 F-15I Ra’am fighters – the specialized variant of the American F-15E Strike Eagle – to emulate the new F-15EX prototype.
Why the F-15I platform is essential for the IAF (Israel Air Force)
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has prioritized acquiring more F-15 aircraft capable of carrying bigger bombs to strike hardened targets as tensions between Israel and its main enemy Iran have increased in recent years.
The F-15EX, according to Boeing, “carries more ordnance than any previous fighter in its class and can fire hypersonic weapons up to 22 feet long and up to 7,000 pounds.”
This new technology will be critical to the IAF, as its pilots need the airpower and number of planes to simultaneously take out Iran’s advanced air defense systems and nuclear facilities. In addition, the IAF uses its fleets of F-15s to eliminate thousands of rockets operated by the terrorist group Hezbollah, supported by Iran, in Lebanon.
Why the F-15I Ra’am Variant Stands Out
The F-15 is 50 years old, but it’s still an absolute powerhouse for all the air forces that use it. Incredibly, this airframe has a kill ratio of 104 to 0. The aircraft’s efficiency is enhanced by its sophisticated electronic warfare system, powerful engines, and numerous weapons.
The Israeli version of the F-15E Strike Eagle, the F-15I Ra’am “Thunder,” entered IAF service in the late 1990s. Israel Aerospace Industries worked with F-15I platform maker Boeing to build in custom features. Perhaps the most noticeable change Israel sought was a larger frame size for the Thunder.
Its ability to carry larger weapons gives the F-15 a capability not found in sleeker airframes like the F-35. In addition to size, the Thunder platform boasts several domestically designed capabilities, such as an Israeli-made mainframe and an Elbit viewing helmet and visor.
The F-15I Ra’am has led the IAF for years.
Frequently used by the IAF in conflicts along Israel’s borders and abroad, the F-15I plays a pivotal role in the IAF’s suite of missions.
Since Iran has provided Russia with many of the killer drones it continues to use in its invasion of Ukraine, Israel fears the Kremlin will return the favor by selling the regime its S-400 air defense system.
If the rogue state acquires this more advanced system, the IAF will undoubtedly need a fleet of upgraded Ra’ams and advanced F-15EX fighters to successfully carry out strike missions in Iran.