Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) recently signed a contract, worth USD $50 million with Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Defense to upgrade Kfir aircraft for the Sri Lankan Air Force. The deal includes replacing the aircraft’s basic avionics with the advanced 4+ generation fighter aircraft avionics in order to one day integrate advanced radar, sensors, communication systems, and new helmets. The upgrade process will also include transfer of knowledge and skills for refurbishment to Sri Lankan Air Force personnel. The upgrades will be completed in cooperation with Sri Lanka’s Air Force and in their local facilities.
The Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) acquired six Kfir C.2s and a single TC.2 in 1995â€“1996. A further nine aircraft had been added to the inventory by 2005, including four C.2s and four C.7s acquired in 2000. Currently the SLAF operates two TC.2s, two C.7s and six C.2s by the No. 10 “Fighter” Squadron. The SLAF used their Kfirs to carry out attacks against LTTE rebels during the Sri Lankan Civil War in Sri Lanka. Two Kfir C.7s were destroyed on the ground in an LTTE attack on SLAF Katunayake air base, part of Bandaranaike International Airport, on 24 July 2001. Three others were lost in non-combat related accidents during the Civil War period. None were lost in aerial combat.
Israel Aerospace Industries Executive VP and GM of IAI’s Aviation Group, Yossi Melamed, said, “I am proud that IAI’s Kfir has been chosen by customers around the world, including in the United States and as the Columbian Air Force’s primary fighter jet. I am grateful to Sri Lanka’s Air Force for choosing to renew their Kfir selection and continue using the Kfir as their Multi-Role Combat Aircraft. I believe this deal is an early step in preparing for future upgrades to the advanced model KNG (Kfir New Generation).”
The Israel Aircraft Industries Kfir (Lion Cub) is an Israeli all-weather multirole combat aircraft based on the French Dassault Mirage 5, with Israeli avionics and an Israeli-built version of the General Electric J79 turbojet engine. The project that would ultimately give birth to the Kfir can be traced back to Israel’s need for adapting the Dassault Mirage IIIC to the specific requirements of the Israeli Air Force (IAF). The only air victory claimed by a Kfir during its service with the IAF occurred on June 27, 1979 when a Kfir C.2 shot down a Syrian MiG-21.
The Kfir, when first developed, was a game changer on the battlefield with its ability to carry heavy ammunition (thousands of tons) and reach enemy targets in a precise manner. The decision to upgrade the aircraft now, was based in part, on the successful completion of this process in the Columbian Air Force. In 2012 and 2018, the Columbian Air Force’s Kfir fleet participated in the United States Red Flag exercise, alongside the U.S. Air Force and other air forces. The Kfir displayed exceptional capabilities throughout the exercise.
IAI’s Aviation Group has many years of experience upgrading military and commercial aircraft. The group is responsible for all manned aircraft, including executive jets, avionics, structural assemblies, MRO, conversion of passenger airplanes to freighter configuration, etc. The Aviation Group’s customers include air forces, airlines, and major defense companies, including the Israel Air Force, U. S. Air Force, Sri Lanka Air Force, Colombia Air Force, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and more.