The IAI Kfir is an Israeli all weather multirole combat aircraft based on the French Dassault Mirage 5, with Israeli avionics and an Israeli built version of the General Electric J79 turbojet engine.
The Kfir programme originated in the quest to develop a more capable version of the IAI Nesher, which was already in series production.
After General De Gaulle embargoed the sale of arms to Israel, the IAF feared that it might lose qualitative superiority over its adversaries in the future, which were receiving increasingly advanced Soviet aircraft.
The main and most advanced type of aircraft available to the IAF was the Mirage, but a severe problem developed due to the Mirage fleet’s depletion due to attrition after the Six-Day War.
Domestic production would avoid the problem of the embargo completely; efforts to reverse engineer and reproduce components of the Mirage were aided by Israeli espionage efforts to obtain technical assistance and blueprints from third party Mirage operators.
Two powerplants were initially selected for trials, the General Electric J79 turbojet and the Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan.
In the end, the J79 was selected, not least because it was the same engine used on the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, which the Israelis began to acquire from the United States in 1969, along with a license to produce the J79 themselves.
The J79 was clearly superior to the original French Atar 09, providing a dry thrust of 49 kN (11,000 lbf) and an afterburning thrust of 83.4 kN (18,750 lbf).
In order to accommodate the new powerplant on the Mirage III’s airframe, and to deliver the added cooling required by the J79, the aircraft’s rear fuselage was slightly shortened and widened, its air intakes were enlarged, and a large air inlet was installed at the base of the vertical stabilizer, so as to supply the extra cooling needed for the afterburner.
The engine itself was encased in a titanium heatshield.
A two-seat Mirage IIIBJ fitted with the GE J79 made its first flight in September 1970, and was soon followed by a re-engined Nesher, which flew in September 1971.
An improved prototype of the aircraft, with the name Ra’am B, made its first flight in June 1973.
It had an extensively revised cockpit, a strengthened landing gear, and a considerable amount of Israeli-built avionics.
The internal fuel tanks were slightly rearranged, their total capacity being increased to 713 US gal (2,700 L).
There were unconfirmed reports that a number of the original Mirage IIICs, re-engined with the J79 and given the name Barak, took part in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, but some sources point out that there is no evidence that these aircraft ever existed.
Basic production variant.
25 upgraded Kfir C.1 aircraft were leased to the USN and USMC for an aggressor role and were designated F-21A Lion.
These aircraft had been modified and included canards on the air intakes.
These canards greatly improved the aircraft manoeuvrability and slow speed control and were adopted on later variants.
An improved C.1 that featured many aerodynamic improvements.
Changes included “dogtoothed” leading edges on the wings, small strakes under the nose and a larger sweep angle of the canards.
A two-seat training variant developed from the C.2.
It has a longer and lowered nose to improve the pilot’s view.
Vastly modified variant. Most if not all C.2 aircraft were modified to this variant.
It included an improved J79-GE-J1E engine that offered more 1,000 lbs of thrust at full afterburner
(And as a result, increasing the Maximum Take-off Weight by 3,395 lbs),
2 more hardpoints under the air intakes, better avionics such as the Elta EL/M-2021B radar, HOTAS configured cockpit and inflight refuelling capability.
A two-seat training variant developed from the C.7.
Proposal for Argentina powered by Atar 9K50. Cancelled.
Later developed as South Africa’s Atlas Cheetah
A variant developed especially for export.
The most important change is the adaptation of the Elta EL/M-2032 radar.
Other changes include HMD capability and two 127×177mm MFDs.
This variant is also known as Kfir CE (Ecuadorean version) and Kfir COA (Colombian version).
Upgraded version of the TC.7 for the Colombian Air Force.
Upgraded version of the C.7 for the Colombian Air Force, a C.10 without the Elta EL/M-2032 radar.
Reconnaissance version of the C.2.
Kfir Block 60
Upgraded version of the C.10, The main feature of this variant is the use of AESA radar, proposed to the Bulgarian Air Force and Colombian Air Force.
Upgraded version, short for Next-Generation.
Offered to current and former operators Colombia, Ecuador and Sri Lanka.
15.65 m (51 ft 4 in)
8.22 m (27 ft 0 in)
4.55 m (14 ft 11 in)
34.8 m2 (375 sq ft)
7,285 kg (16,061 lb)
11,603 kg (25,580 lb)
Max take-off weight
16,200 kg (35,715 lb)
1 × IAl Bedek-built General Electric J79-J1E turbojet,
52.9 kN (11,900 lbf) thrust dry,
79.62 kN (17,900 lbf) with afterburner
2,440 km/h (1,520 mph, 1,320 kn) above 11,000 m (36,089 ft)
768 km (477 mi, 415 nmi) (ground attack, hi-lo-hi profile, seven 227 kg (500 lb) bombs, two AAMs, two 1,300 l (340 US gal; 290 imp gal) drop tanks)
17,680 m (58,010 ft)
Rate of climb
233 m/s (45,900 ft/min)
2× Rafael-built 30 mm (1.18 in) DEFA 553 cannon with 140 rpg
Assortment of unguided air-to-ground rockets including the Matra JL-100 drop tank/rocket pack, each with 19× SNEB 68 mm rockets and 66 US gallons (250 litres) of fuel
2× AIM-9 Sidewinders or Shafrir or Python-series AAMs; 2× Shrike ARMs; 2× AGM-65 Maverick ASMs
5,775 kg (12,732 lb) of payload on nine external hardpoints, including bombs such as the Mark 80 series, Paveway series of LGBs, Griffin LGBs, SMKBs, TAL-1
TAL-2 CBUs, BLU-107 Matra Durandal, reconnaissance pods or Drop tanks.