Israel Air Force flies farther thanks to Brazil deal

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July 12, 2017 20:07

Israel's fleet of Boeing 707 Re'em aircraft are nearing 60 years old

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Boeing 707 Re'em

Boeing 707 Re'em refuels IAF jets. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

The Israel Air Force has bought a Boeing 707 from the Brazilian Air Force to use for parts as part of a major upgrade of its tanker fleet.

The plane was bought several months ago in a contract worth $410,000, according to the Defense Ministry.

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The IAF Re’em (Boeing 707) refueler aircraft, many which are nearing 60 years old, are needed for long-range missions.

“We like to see ourselves as the squadron which allows the IAF to go anywhere.

Without air refueling fighter, jets can only go so far,” a senior officer in the Re’em Squadron told The Jerusalem Post during a visit to the Nevatim Air Base, southeast of Beersheba.

The Defense Ministry is believed to be considering leasing Boeing KC-46A air tankers to replace the 707’s, and while the air force has begun initial talks to consider the option of using some American military aid to buy new tanker aircraft, they are considered relatively expensive.

The air force’s Re’em planes, the number of which remains classified, are former civilian aircraft adapted for military uses such as aerial refueling for fighter jets, as well as for transport aircraft.

Sitting in the cockpit of one of the aging planes, the senior officer said that it was challenging to fly the planes, explaining that pilot must be able to coordinate with the boom operator who sits in the back of the craft.

Able to carry 20 extra fuel tanks while modified for aerial refueling, the planes are able to be adapted to carry passengers as well as cargo such as military equipment and ammunition from the United States, the officer said.

“The diversity of our missions is quite large. There are not many squadrons that go help in humanitarian situations and then carry out a classified operational mission and then carry the prime minister to peace talks,” he said.

The planes, which carry out most of their training in Israel, are set to take part in the Blue Flag exercise in November.

Close to 100 aircraft and hundreds of support crew from the United States, Greece, Poland, France, Germany, Italy and India are expected to partake in the two-week Blue Flag drill, marking the first time India will be participating.

The exercise has been carried out every two years, first in 2013 and then in 2015.

“It will be exciting to fly with the Indians. It makes our alliances stronger,” the officer said.

The drill, which is aimed at honing skills in planning, targeting and coordinated command and control, will take place out of the Uvda Air Base, about 60 km. north of Eilat, and will marks the first time that such a large number of foreign planes and air forces will participate in a training exercise in Israel.

In August 2015, Re’em Squadron planes set the record for the longest direct IAF flight, when they flew 14,500 km. from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada to Israel, after participating in Red Flag, the main Israeli-American air forces training exercise.

The long journey to Nevada had taken three days, with several tankers prepositioned in Spain and at Lajes Air Base on Terceira Island in the Azores, Portugal, in the mid-Atlantic, before they flew to Bangor, Maine, and then finally to Nellis.

“It was a really complex exercise which demonstrated exactly how far we can go. To land several tankers and 200 air crew on a small island in the mid-Atlantic shows the power of the air force,” the officer said, explaining that Israel is one of the few countries participating in the Red Flag Exercise that gets there alone.

“Other countries receive aerial refueling from the Americans. We choose not to on purpose.”


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