March/April 1999

IAF's $84m. F-15I put to battle in Lebanon


TEL AVIV (March 5) - The IAF's $84 million F-15I fighter jet had its first taste of battle, attacking Hizbullah targets on the Soujud ridge with precision weapons, the latest edition of Air Force Magazine reported.

The strategic fighter, known in Hebrew as the Ram (thunder) reportedly made the strike on January 11. On that day the IDF announced it had struck at Hizbullah targets and scored accurate hits. Reports from Lebanon then said that the warplanes fired at least 14 missiles in seven sorties.

According to the magazine, the attack was led by a Maj. Haggai, deputy squadron commander of the Patishim (hammers) squadron. The lead navigator, Capt. Noam, described the attack.

"It was not a complicated attack. The sortie lasted 40 minutes. We had good visibility and there were no problems with the weather. After we attacked the target with precision guided weapons we saw that we had very good hits."

"For me it was my first operational attack at night," Capt. Noam said. "I had flown in an F-15 squadron, but the Ram has capabilities and advanced weapons systems that other jets don't have. I can certainly say it was an experience."

A few days after that first attack, the F-15Is were used to perform another attack in Lebanon.

Israel began receiving the first of its 25 F-15Is last January at a rate of about two a month. The IAF said the squadron started to be operational last June and that this attack in Lebanon marks its first acknowledged battle test.

The IAF purchased the advanced F-15I to enhance its over-the-horizon capability.

It would be capable of attacking countries as far away as Iran, which is trying to build missiles capable of reaching Israel.

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