Don’t build a better aircraft, or we will shoot it down
Israel was told to drop the Lavi after Caspar Weinberger observed the flight test data. It was too good; the results were coming in too fast on the plus side. So the “Tucker” had to be killed again.
Regretfully, the Lavi was just what the United States needed, particularly after the A-10 was shown as incapable of surviving a heavy concentration of Ground-to-Air missiles. The U.S. desperately needed a dedicated “CAS” Close Air Support aircraft and now. Mr. Dov Zakheim, spokesman for Mr. Weinberger came in swinging. His job was not only to kill the Lavi but to sell a revised version of the F-16 to be called the “A” Agile Falcon 16. This very worthy, totally dedicated air superiority aircraft was now to be modified and called the Close Air Support “CAS” the Air Force was supposed to be looking for.
Unfortunately, it could never meet the test of a dedicated CAS and the army who would be calling for support, came to recognize that this was only another appropriation for additional modified F-16s for the Air Force. The Army, now fully awake, said, “Wait a minute, fly boys. We carry the brunt of the war and we need true Air-to-Ground support.”
Congress is dragging the Air Force kicking and screaming into a reevaluation, possibly through a fly-off. Sadly, the only aircraft in the Western arena capable of flying to the combat zone as an air superiority aircraft, dropping to the deck as a CAS, and fighting off enemy air superiority aircraft as its way home is…and was the Lavi. It was developed by combat pilots, working with combat-trained engineers. I believe the third prototype is still flying as an improved test-bed for various avionics. Israel offered the U.S. co-manufacturing rights and all its considerable combat experience but was turned down. When the Lavi was killed 250 American subcontractors lost their contract to co-produce parts for the Lavi. How many jobs lost was that?
Now that Congress has come to recognize that the A-16s may not be the answer for the 90s, perhaps the Lavi may be included in a fly-off.