The IAR 99 Șoim is an advanced trainer and light attack aircraft capable of performing close air support and reconnaissance missions.
The aircraft is of semi-monocoque design, with tapered wings and a swept-back tail unit.
A large blade-type antenna installed beneath the nose on the port side of the fuselage gives the IAR 99 trainer a distinctive appearance.
The design of the aircraft started in 1975 and this would be the first jet trainer fully designed and built in Romania.
In 1979 funding was approved for building the first trainer by I.Av. Craiova where the IAR 93 attack aircraft was currently built.
The prototype (S-001) flew on 21 December 1985 with Lt. Col. Vagner Ștefănel at the controls.
S-002 served for static (ground) testing, S-003 being the second flying prototype (later re-serialled 7003).
The aircraft entered series production in 1987, with 17 aircraft delivered to the Romanian Air Force by 1989.
Two were lost in the 1990s (numbers 710 and 714).
In 1990 the fall of the Eastern Bloc created new export opportunities for the aircraft, but while the aircraft had excellent aerodynamic and handling qualities, it was left behind in its class because of its obsolete avionics, with upgrading becoming a priority.
The first upgrade attempt was made in 1990 by I.Av.Craiova together with the Texas-based Jaffe Aircraft Corporation.
Aircraft 708 and 709 were modified by installing Honeywell avionics, while the canopy was changed to a two-piece design instead of the original one piece.
This change would be retained for all subsequent aircraft.
708 took its first flight on August 8th, 1990, followed by 709 on August 22nd.
The aircraft were displayed at the 1990 Farnborough Airshow, being proposed for the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System program for the United States of America, although this work resulted in no orders.
In 1991, aircraft number 712 was outfitted with Collins avionics and took part in a show in Ankara, Turkey.
Aircraft 708, 709 and 712 were reconfigured to Standard and delivered to the Romanian Air Force.
In 1996 the upgrade program of the IAR 99 was revived with the need for a lead-in trainer for the newly upgraded MiG-21 Lancer.
The Israeli company Elbit was chosen as an integrator.
The avionics package is compatible with 5th generation fighter systems, and it is inspired by the MiG-21 Lancer upgrade but adapted to IAR 99 needs.
The first upgraded IAR 99 was the 18th production aircraft (number 718), which performed its first flight on 22 May 1997.
The upgraded IAR 99 was displayed at Paris in 1997 and Farnborough in 1998.
On 6 August 1998, the Romanian Government approved the introduction into series production of the upgrade program for 24 IAR-99 Șoim out of which 4 were supposed to be delivered by 2001.
The Romanian Ministry of National Defence signs a contract for those 24 aircraft on 20 April 2000, reducing that number to 12 on 14 December 2000.
Only seven of these are to be new built (numbers 719-725), and five upgraded from existing IAR 99 (numbers 709, 711, 712, 713, 717).
These were delivered between 2003 and 2008, gradually replacing the L-39 Albatros’ in service with the Romanian Air Force’s training school.
Thus, the Romanian Air Force will have 12 IAR 99 C Șoim (upgraded) and 11 IAR 99 Standard, with 7003 remaining with Avioane Craiova SA as demonstrator aircraft.
In 2015, a consortium composed of Avioane Craiova, INCAS and CCIZ announced that an enhanced version of the IAR 99 called IAR 99 TD is under development.
A single airframe will be built with a new avionics’ suite, an engine and radar.
The Leonardo Vixen 500E radar was chosen and requires lengthening the nose by 900mm.
A new engine which supports computer control is required to replace the 1951 designed Rolls Royce Viper.
This in turn will need a twice as big air intake.
A prototype is expected to be completed by 2022.
In December 2020, Elbit Systems announced they were awarded the contract to upgrade the remaining 10 IAR 99 Standard airframes in service with the Romanian Air Force.
IAR 99 “Standard”
Initial variant designed as a lead-in trainer for the IAR-93.
IAR 109 “Swift”
In 1992 an upgrade program was started in partnership with IAI Lahav of Israel, for both Romanian Air Force use and export.
Aircraft number 7003 was equipped with HOTAS (Hands On Throttle and Stick) controls in both cockpits, a wide-angle HUD (Head-Up Display) with Up Front Control Panel in the front cockpit, two 3 inch displays in both cockpits, a ring laser gyro Inertial Navigation System (INS), as well as the integration of both Eastern and Western weapon systems on the aircraft.
The aircraft was displayed at the 1993 Paris Air Show and flew at Asian Aerospace in 1994.
A prospective sale of 10 aircraft to Botswana was blocked in parliament, ending the collaboration with IAI.
The aircraft was converted back to Standard configuration and delivered to the centre for flight research and testing (CCIZ).
As late as 2009 it still retained it’s “Swift” styled paint scheme and logo.
IAR 99 C “Șoim”
Upgraded variant using an Elbit Systems avionics package.