Powered by WebAds

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bring back the Lavi?

Every time I do a post that laments the cancellation of the F-22, or that discusses Israel's debates over the cost of the F-35 or the debate over whether to purchase a new version of the F-15, someone (usually the same person) drops me a comment about the cancellation of the Lavi - the jet fighter that Israel was developing itself and decided to cancel 23 years ago. And every time, I read the comment, pass it through, and then feel like asking whether the person is crying over spilled milk.

Former Defense Minister Moshe Arens, who opposed the Lavi's cancellation in 1987, deplores Israel's current predicament over the F-35. He believes we should go back to the Lavi, find new partners, and develop a homegrown fighter jet.
Who would have believed it? Some years ago Israel was developing the world's most advanced fighter aircraft, the Lavi, while the Western world's aircraft manufacturers were beating their way to our door, eager to participate in the Lavi project, or trying to sell their competing plane to the Israel Air Force. And now Israel goes hat in hand pleading for a chance to be allowed to acquire the F-35 aircraft, at a price tag of $150 million each. But it's not only the astronomical price. Israel is told that the F-35 must be taken as is - no changes or modifications to suit Israel's specific needs, and absolutely no Israeli systems included. Take it or leave it.

Just imagine Israel's position today had the Lavi project not been canceled. The IAF would be operating the world's most advanced fighter, upgraded over the years to incorporate operational experience and newer technology. Much of Israel's industry would have moved a great step ahead, Israel Aerospace Industries would have become a leading developer of fighter aircraft, and most importantly, a number of options would be open to the IAF in choosing its next fighter.


Does Israel still have the technological capability to design a first-rate fighter aircraft? That needs to be examined in some depth. No doubt some of the capability that existed at the time of the Lavi project has been lost over the years, but as has been proved time and again, Israel has a world-class technological capability. Its success in unmanned aerial vehicles is only one of a number of examples.

If it turns out that the capability to design the IAF's next fighter aircraft does exist in Israel, where could we go from there? Not to the U.S. Congress in search of funding, because we would have to remind them that 27 years ago they were fools to invest $1 billion in the development of the Lavi that Israel decided it did not want. We would have to look for partners who are prepared to invest resources in such a project, who have the necessary technological capability, and who are not involved in the F-35 project.

Are there such candidates? In theory, yes. France, with a great aeronautical industry, chose not to participate in the F-35 project. India, with a considerable aeronautical capability and a meteorically growing economy, might be another candidate. And there is Russia. Perhaps none of them would be interested, and perhaps all of them would be. It's worth a try.
In a perfect world, with unlimited resources, I would be in all in favor of developing the Lavi. With hindsight, there is little doubt that canceling it was a mistake, for which we may yet pay a high price. At the moment, there is little choice but to buy one or more of the American aircraft types. And I suspect that Boeing and Lockheed - the two survivors of the American aerospace industry - would oppose Israel developing its own fighter jet, even if the United States were not paying for it directly (money is fungible, and I could see them taking the position that there should be some kind of offset against US military aid for money spent by Israel in developing the Lavi or its successor).

But it's still worth a serious look. The argument over including Israeli technology in versions of the F-35 that are being sold to us is unacceptable, as is the outrageous cost of the plane and the fact that Turkey - which is rapidly becoming an enemy - is one of the countries sitting on the 'sell side' of any F-35 deal. If nothing else, Israel needs leverage in its argument over the F-35. Having our own capability would be a good means of getting that leverage.

Read the whole thing.


At 9:50 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Its not a question of money. Israel is a First World country with the resources and brilliant minds to design the plane.

There is no excuse for not reviving it. The initial outlays will be more than be offset by new jobs and all the attendant spin-offs that would go into building it. Plus the potential export market out there.

All Israel needs to is do it! If you will it, it is no dream.

At 10:56 AM, Blogger The Lone Cabbage said...

I am an eternal fan of the Lavi project, but there are some valid contrary opinions. Michael Eisenberg (Big time Israeli/American VC) writes in his Humus Manfesto that the Lavi project collected and developed huge amounts of technical talent, and then suddenly ending the project set that talent loose in the wild.

I can't say I agree 100% with him, I think Intel's heavy investment in Israel in the 90's and Bibi's concurrent reforms had much more to do with it than fire a few thousand engineers. But he's got a hell of a point. And traditionally large national projects have a been a way to rapidly advance a countries technology. (Apollo, the Manhattan Project, Arpanet, "StarWars", and yes the Lavi)

Either way, Israel is already a leader in autonomous drones, which are the future. I'm not a military expert, but I can't think of any non-technically-surmountable advantage an aircraft with an in frame pilot has over a remotely piloted one. Where as unmanned drones can be used more liberally than maned ones, execute higher G maneuvers, carry heavier pay loads, conform to more stealthy shapes, and do things we would consider too dangerous for our manned air craft.

In other words, who cares.

At 11:45 AM, Blogger Unknown said...


Isreal can do any thing.

With India, we are lucky

We are always with great and Brave Isreal

Long live India & Isreal

Raja Sekhar


Post a Comment

<< Home