The F-16A Netz versus the Kfir Block 60

An F-16A Netz. Photo courtesy of merlin824 thru Flickr
An F-16A Netz. Photo courtesy of merlin824 thru Flickr

Rumors are circling around that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is considering either the Kfir Block 60 or the F-16A Netz from Israel for possible acquisition. Right off the bat I felt that the F-16A would automatically be the better fighter aircraft, but it would be good to have some sort of data to support this, hence I will try to do it with this blog.

‘Aircraft Backgrounds’
The Kfir is based on the Mirage III/5 delta-winged aircraft whose blueprints were stolen by the Mossad (as is now detailed in various spy books and articles1), and is described as an all-weather, Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) aircraft. It first entered service in 1975 and saw extensive combat duty with the Israeli Air Force (IAF) before finally being retired by the IAF in 1996. A total of 220 Kfirs were built, and currently the air forces of Colombia, Equador and Sri Lanka are still operating the aircraft. All Kfirs being sold now are taken from the mothballed stocks of the IAF, but are refurbished and upgraded with advanced avionics plus a 40-year manufacturer’s guarantee. The latest version in the market is the “Block 60” equipped with an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, the EL/M-2052.2

The F-16 was made by the American company “General Dynamics”, and first entered service with the United States Air Force (USAF) in 1978. It is described as an all-weather MRF and it is one of the most successful modern aircraft designs as eventually over 4,500 were built and went into service into more than 26 countries worldwide.3

‘F-16A Netz’
Israel first received F-16s during the “Peace Marble I” Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program in 1980-1981. 49 F-16A Block 10 were delivered, with these aircraft receiving several unspecified technical modifications unique to their service with the IAF, making them distinct and thus were renamed “Netz” meaning “Falcon” in Hebrew.

Israel wasted no time with their new war toy by using it to bomb the Osirak Nuclear Reactor in Iraq in 1981. The F-16A was used due to the accuracy of its computerized bombing system even when using only conventional munitions. The following year in 1982, the F-16s again saw combat action in the war against Lebanon where they were credited with 44 kills using AIM-9L Sidewinder and Python 3 Short Range Air to Air Missiles (SRAAM) during the short war.

The next batch of F-16A deliveries to Israel was during the “Peace Marble IV” FMS program in 1994 when a combination of 36 Blocks 1, 5 and 10 F-16A were delivered. In total over the years, the “Heyl Ha’Avir” (as the IAF is known in Hebrew) received 85 F-16As, all of which were reportedly upgraded to equal that of the F-16C Barak standards except for the engines, which retained the original GE F100 engine. In July of this year, Israel retired the last two squadrons of its F-16As from frontline service and will instead be relying on their more advanced F-16 models, the F-16C Barak and F-16I Sufa in the frontlines.4 5

The Netz figured prominently in the “Iron Eagle” series of movies as they were all shot in Israel with the help of the Israeli Air Force. As a kid I remember watching the first movie in the series and thinking how wondrous those F-16As looked. Who knew that almost three decades later our Air Force would be considering getting some of those exact same aircraft? Here is a sample scene from the movie, and incidentally, the villains in the movie used the KFIR:

‘Evaluation Notes’
For the “Maneuverability” and “Payload and Range” sections, the following considerations were made:
– Weights with 100% internal fuel was used to try to simulate the aircraft going into combat with full internal fuel after dropping their External Fuel Tanks.
– The weights of the armaments were not included as the RATIOS and DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BOTH AIRCRAFT will remain the same if they will be armed with the same type and same number of armaments.
– Fuel density of 0.81 kg/l was used to convert fuel capacity to kilograms
– Data for each aircraft was derived from various websites at 6 7 8.

‘Manueverability’
For both aircraft’s maneuvering capability, I am looking at their LIMIT LOAD FACTOR*, WING LOADING* and THRUST TO WEIGHT RATIO.* I would’ve wanted to take a look at more aspects like Stall Speed, Maximum Alpha, etc., but those data are hard to come by for both aircraft. Hence, these should suffice for now. Remember that a lower Wing Loading means the aircraft can turn tighter and vice-versa, and a higher Thrust-to-Weight Ratio means the aircraft can go faster going straight up or straight down and vice-versa.
Netz-Kfir_Maneuverability

SUMMARY
– POSITIVE LIMIT LOAD FACTOR: Favors the Netz by 20% as it is rated up to 9G at all flight envelopes while the Kfir is only limited to 7.5G its flight regimes
– WING LOADING: Favors the Kfir with a large 29% lower wing loading compared to the Geagle
– THRUST TO WEIGHT RATIO: 49% advantage for the Netz in terms of TTWR

+++ The Netz has a very impressive TTWR of 1.29 even with a full fuel load, and it will enable it to dictate the fight, choosing to engage and disengage if it wants to during WVR combat by simply “going vertical”. Subsequent F-16 models gained more weight and thus became less maneuverable but at the same time improved their ground attack capability, but the F-16A was a pure dogfighter hence even in the IAF they tend to be employed more for close air combat while the Barak and Sufa were used more for ground attack missions.

+++ The Kfir can turn tighter than the F-16A in the horizontal plane, but most of this advantage is lost due to its maximum G limitations. It is typical for most western pre F-15/F-16 fighter aircraft designs to have G limits of only around 7, while the F-16 is stressed for 9Gs through all of its flight envelope.

+++ Overall, the maneuverability advantage lies with the Netz as weighing in the percent differences for and against both fighters, the Netz comes out on top mostly due to its higher TTWR advantage.

A Kfir C12 at a Red Flag Exercise. Photo courtesy of the Nellis AFB Website
A Kfir C12 at a Red Flag Exercise. Photo courtesy of the Nellis AFB Website

‘Payload and Range’
For Range, I am using INTERNAL FUEL FRACTION (INTFF) as a rough indicator how far each aircraft can go based on the internal fuel available to them.

The Kfir’s IntFF value was multiplied by 0.87 to reflect the estimated 13% more fuel consumption of its J79 Turbojet Engines as compared to the FA-50’s more efficient F404 Turbofan Engines. For more explanation of this, refer to a special section at the bottom page**
Netz-Kfir_Payload

SUMMARY
INTFF: Favors the Netz by a large 42%, indicating it can travel 42% farther for the same engine fuel efficiency.
– PAYLOAD: Favors the Kfir slightly as it can carry 13% (763 kg) more load than the Netz.

+++ The Kfir can carry a little bit more load than the Netz, but the Netz is expected to be able to travel a good distance further than the Kfir with slightly less load.

‘Air Combat-related Avionics and Weapons’
Here I am comparing the capability of both aircrafts in terms of Within Visual Range (WVR) and Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air combat thru their Avionics and Weapons available to them. Just some notes, though:
– RCS data are for “clean” aircraft, with no armaments or fuel tanks
– No solid references for the Radar Cross Section (RCS) and detection ranges for the Kfir B60 and its EL/M-2052 radar. RCS is taken from an obscure internet reference, while the EL/M-2052 detection range is just estimated to be 25% higher than the detection range of the EL/M-2032 Radar.
– Other data were taken from this website:9 10
Netz-Kfir_Avionics

SUMMARY
– WVR COMBAT: Advantage for the Netz because of its Fly By Wire (FBW) system
– BVR COMBAT: Practically even for both aircrafts as the Netz is expected to be able to detect the Kfir at 59 km, or just 3% (2 km) further than the Kfir can detect the Netz which is at 57 km.

+++ The Netz’s FBW system means its control reactions are faster which will be more pronounced during successive maneuvers, and it also makes the plane safer as it will be more resistant to stalls and over stressing of the airframe. This will enable the Netz to fly closer to its maximum flight envelopes without exceeding them, while the same thing can’t be said of the Kfir with its mechanical flight control system.

+++ The Netz has a more powerful radar than the Kfir, but it also has a higher Radar Cross Section, enabling the Kfir to detect at just about the same time. Of course the Kfir’s RCS and radar detection range data are just speculative, and I suspect that the Kfir’s EL/M-2052 AESA radar has much better actual performance that stated above, but unless better data becomes available then we will just have to live with these numbers for now.

+++ The Kfir is limited only to the use of the Derby as BVR missile instead of the much longer-ranged AIM-120 AMRAAM. The Netz’s use of the Derby is only assumed, while its capability to use the AMRAAM is highly suspect as there are no references saying to that effect. This will impact the Netz negatively when matching up against more capable aircraft than the Kfir.

‘AESA Radar’
For me the only advantage the Kfir has that will make it worthwhile to get would be its EL/M-2052 AESA radar. The initial data shows that the AN/APG-66 has a better detection range than the EL/M-2032, but this may not be reliable. If in reality the 2052 has a much better detection range than the APG-66, then that will make the selection between the Netz and the Kfir a little bit more difficult.

AESA radars have a lot of advantages, ranging from improved detection ranges, improved look-down capability, less easy to detect by radar warning receivers, ability to conduct limited electronic warfare, improved maintainability, etc., the list goes on and on.11 Elbit has worked longer towards integrating this radar to the Kfir, and they may be able to do the same to the Netz but no plans have been publicly announced so far and even if they do it will likely take more time and money.

‘Parting Shot’
In terms of condition, both the Kfir and Netz I assume would be more or less the same as the Israel Aircraft Industries is in charge of refurbishing/storing both aircraft. Also, the last two squadrons of the Netz in active frontline service were intended to serve up until 2017 until they were shutdown just this year due to budgetary reasons, hence it is likely that those two squadrons are in good shape.

The Netz is superior to the Kfir in terms of overall manueverability and range, but the Kfir has a slight advantage in payload and possibly radar capability. In the end, though, even if the Kfir Block 60’s AESA radar proves in reality to be better than the AN/APG-66 of the Netz, I would still tend to lean more towards the Netz because overall it is the better aircraft in more areas, and there is the promise of the AESA radar integration into it anyway in the future despite the additional cost and effort for it. If our air force can afford the Netz, IMHO they should go for it instead of the Kfir Block 60.

After all, the Iron Eagle movies confirm the Netz’s superiority by showing it blasting Kfirs out of the sky one after the other. 😀

An F-16A Netz on a full afterburner climb. Photo courtesy of xnir thru Flickr
An F-16A Netz on a full afterburner climb. Photo courtesy of xnir thru Flickr

GLOSSARY

** The F404 engine was developed from the J79 engine. They have the same thrust rating and specific fuel consumption, but the F404 Turbofan engine is 1,470 lbs. lighter than the J79 Turbojet engine, hence the F404 is more efficient as it will need less thrust for the same amount of weight to fly in the air. To reflect this efficiency, the weight savings is divided by the dry thrust or non-afterburning thrust rating (10,900 lbs) of the engine as the aircraft operates most of the time in dry thrust. Values were taken from the book, “An Introduction to Aircraft Performance by Mario Asselin p. 51″, http://books.google.com.ph/books?id=kaqvC4e_EKcC&pg=PA51&lpg=PA51&dq=f404+compared+to+j79&source=bl&ots=BJI4siX03v&sig=Xj2mtSqwqJFCDEZQUIXxVvf9UCU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=km1iUoG-H-6eiAfHnYHoDg&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=f404%20compared%20to%20j79&f=false

SOURCES:


  1. Israel Aerospace Industries Marketing ‘Pre-Owned’ Kfir Fighter Jets to Eastern Europe, Latin America,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20131203040240/http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/08/07/israel-aerospace-industries-marketing-pre-owned-kfir-fighter-jets-to-eastern-europe-latin-america/
  2. IAI Kfir,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20140321003351/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IAI_Kfir
  3. General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20131213081920/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F-16_Fighting_Falcon
  4. Israel Defense Force/Air Force – IDF/AF,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20131213113420/http://www.f-16.net/f-16_users_article7.html
  5. GD/L-M F-16A/B Netz in Israeli Service,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20131016180114/http://www.acig.org/artman/publish/article_276.shtml
  6. General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) F-16 Fighting Falcon Multi-Role Fighter,
    (http://www.aerospaceweb.org/aircraft/fighter/f16/
  7. Kfir,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20160322224649/http://mil.aviations.tripod.com/asia/israel/kfir/info.html
  8. F-21 Kfir, IAI,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20150628011326/http://www.fighter-planes.com/info/kfir.htm
  9. Fighter Mig-21 Fishbed,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20140624072432/http://www.enemyforces.net/aircraft/mig21.htm
  10. Situation Awareness in Air Combat,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20131220225849/http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~dheb/2300/Articles/PG/PGSA.htm
  11. THE GREAT RADAR RACE: AESA DEVELOPMENT IN HIGH GEAR,
    (https://web.archive.org/web/20150320045611/http://aviationintel.com/the-great-radar-race-aesa-development-in-high-gear/
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35 thoughts on “The F-16A Netz versus the Kfir Block 60”

  1. I would get both if each costs 20 million a piece and possessing the latest sensors, avionics and armaments. If we can get 24 of each and we can come up with 4 squadrons totaling around 48-50 fighters, then we will have credible air defense comprising not of scraps but capable fighters for a decade or two until we can afford the new MRF’s hopefully the likes of Gripen NG or F-35’s.

    1. It would be nice if the PAF can buy the F-35. It kind of sucks though that the F-35A version will be a $153 million hole in your purse. Another question would be the maintenance costs.

      If the F-35 works as advertised (AESA, DAS, EOTS, stealth), an ideal Philippines should consider buying it. PAF pilots can train with USAF, USN and JASDF pilots. Okinawa is close by. Lastly it is a great way to piss off the Chinese when they have to contend with F-35s surrounding them.

      My question to you gentlemen is what would you go for: buy 2 Gripens than buying 1 F-35 (iirc 2x Gripens are almost the cost of one F-35).

      1. I would choose the F-35, too many advantages over the Gripen. More stealthy, more powerful radar, ADAS, Active-Cooling, etc. Although I still haven’t crunched the number, I think the F-35 would be able to match up well even against the SU-35 …

    2. It would be simpler and cheaper logistically if we only choose one type of aircraft. Somebody did comment that a previous study showed that the Philippines needed a minimum of 48 aircraft to have a good deterrent against China …

      1. 48-50 would be the same amount of fighters Liaoning would carry. At least we can match it if it is fully operational the next 5 years. Plus those SU-33 look alike J-15’s would be inferior with our land based fighters because of its inability to carry a heavy load.

      2. Unfortunately China does not stop at Liaoning and would soon have a couple more the next decade or so. Hopefully by then we would have ample fighters for deterrence or have a few F-35’s/NG’s for air superiority.

  2. yes 48 fighters organize at least 3 squadrons based in basa or clark, mactan air base and zamboanga. we can choose either an f-16 block 50 or jas gripen both are capable fighters that can challenge an SU-30 or 35 if we will apply the world war 2 tactics of great britain. let them come until they bleed for fuel. if our air force is properly disperse, we have a good chance.

    1. Philippines Air Forces is best on the world, we will get F-22 Raptor and F-35 some day…
      we have more than enough money to buy that, we are the best economic growth in asia, we have a lot of foreign exchsnge reserves.

  3. i believe that those netz are still in good condition, the question is.. do we have the bucks to purchase them and to maintain them? or is it ok with our policies to divert the budget for other items just to buy the F-16s?

    will the US block this if ever?

  4. The Netz would be a good buy for the Philippines, but looking at the bad relations between the US and Duterte, I have doubts that this would push thru since the US will still have veto power over the transfer of these American made aircraft to any other country.

      1. I wrote this blog in 2013, three years ago, and up to now there have been no indications in the Press that we are seriously considering it, especially under this new President who doesn’t want to confront China and doesn’t have good relations with America.

  5. lorenzana already said in interview that PH will not buy subs because very expensive, why not focus on the Netz available right now.? do they know this, and ignoring or what?

      1. I believe CAS project was already in the pipeline since the past admin, what i’m expecting is the ability of our govt to adjust to what is available right now. this admin is very critical with the “fly-by toys” purchased by pnoy but no attempt to get the real deal. maybe they’re busy with their war against drugs.

  6. rhk/nicky, I remember this admin blasting past admin on “second hand” assistance provided by US, so no wonder we will not be getting these Netz. Our country is “very rich” so we can get more sophisticated and brand new aircrafts from our new “friends” like nicky said the MiG-35 or J-20 or J-31.

    1. Nice observation, bengh0302. I just hope it doesn’t mean we will be going all Russian and Chinese from hereon. The Russian Ambassador in his speech yesterday on board the Admiral Tributs mentioned something like they wouldn’t be selling just second hand stuff to us, or something like that.

      1. yes and i remember that you mentioned that you’re OK with russians missiles, and i hope we can get what will really boost our armed forces to attain our goal of credible minimum defense.
        i just don’t trust the chinese if they will really help us – and for what expense? wps?

    2. Look at it this way, the Philippines can’t afford anything New Coming from Europe, Israel and SK. That’s mainly because the US has Arms control on what countries can export with US technology to other countries. If the US shuts out the Philippines that the only option is Russia or China. South Korea won’t sell their gear because their gear has US made components that require US govt Approval. Since the Loudmouth trash talked America, I don’t think the US would be in the mood to allow countries to sell their gear with US made gear in it. Which is why I think the MIG-35 is one option for the Philippines.

  7. For our CAS/COIN, I hope rhk can come up with an article or comparison aircraft from the west versus the russian Frogfoot, the formidable Su-25.

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