July 22, 2007
Israel began receiving a custom version of the F-16 (the F16I) three years ago. Now it wants more, and will upgrade 125 of its F-16C and D models to the I standard. The F-16I is a 24 ton, two seat fighter-bomber, and is probably the most capable F-16 model in service. It's basically a modified version of the F-16C/D Block 50/52, equipped with a more advanced radar (the APG-68(X)) and the ability to carry Israeli weapons like the Python 4 air-to-air missile and the Popeye 2 air-to-surface missile.
Costing million each, the F-16I has an excellent navigation system, which allows it to fly on the deck (a few hundred feet from the ground), without working the pilot to death. The aircraft can do this at night or in any weather.
The F-16I can carry enough fuel to hit targets 1,600 kilometers away (meaning Iran is within range).
The aircraft uses the latest short and long range air-to-air missiles, as well as smart bombs. Electronic countermeasures are carried, as is a powerful computer system, which records the details of each sortie in great detail. This is a big help for training.
The F-16I is basically optimized to deliver smart bombs anywhere, despite dense air defenses. This further increases Israels military power versus its neighbors.
Israel has been receiving two new F-16I fighter-bombers a month since early 2004, and will eventually receive 102 of them (about 60 have already been delivered.) Added to this will be another 125, as older F-16s are upgraded. This will take three or four years, at least.