In 2016, the United States Air National Guard delivered nine D6-model F-15 aircraft to the Israeli Air Force. The aircraft were decommissioned by the USANG and were supposed to be used for spare parts. However, according to the IAF website, the IAF's Material Directorate and Technical Branch recognized their potential: two-seat F-15 fighter jets with the ability to carry Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFT). This marked the beginning of the jets’ conversion process to "Baz" models.
In the first stage of the project, four aircraft will be converted to the Israeli variant, and will then enter operational service in the IAF. In the second stage, the remaining five aircraft will be converted, replacing five single-seat "Baz" aircraft which will be then be decommissioned.
This is the first time a D6-model F-15 aircraft will be integrated into the IAF. "This is a unique, challenging project," said Lt. Col. Yossi, Deputy Commander of Tel-Nof AFB’s Maintenance Squadron. "The goal is to increase the amount of two-seat 'Baz' aircraft in the operational squadrons." The process of converting the American F-15 jets to Israeli "Baz" jets is complex and includes many stages: mapping the aircraft, removing the American systems, manufacturing the new components and installing them in the aircraft.
"The project is meant to decommission veteran aircraft and replace them with new ones so that the 'Baz' OrBat remains the same. The American F-15 aircraft have long-range strategic capabilities, as they are two-seat models with the capability to carry Conformable Fuel Tanks", explained Maj. Or Beaner from the IAF Material Directorate. Senior Warrant Officer Motti Shpindler from Tel-Nof AFB’s Maintenance Squadron added: "Beyond the operational aspect, this project is of professional significance. The technicians participating in this project study the 'Baz' as extensively as possible, familiarizing themselves with the aircraft more than any other technician."
The entire conversion process took 170 days, despite an average expectancy of two years for a project of this magnitude.
The prototype aircraft is now in the final stages of its conversion prior to its definitive tests. The jet’s first flight is expected to be performed in January of 2018 as part of a series of test flights due to be performed by the Flight Test Squadron. Afterwards, it will become operational.
The article was originally published by Eitam Almadon on the IAF website