Published on 11/27/1989 | by Emanuel Winston | Archived in: Lavi


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.

About the Author



Manny Winston, my late husband, flew from Chicago to Israel to volunteer during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. He arrived with US secretary of state Henry Kissinger’s first ceasefire on October 21; I followed on October 30th.

Manny was picking grapefruit at Kibbutz Dalia when his friend, the artists, Sol Baskin called with a permit to enter the war zone. They drove to meet Gen. Ariel “Arik” Sharon at the Suez Canal. “Shalom” Baskin was part of the Mahal volunteers from America to the IDF, and a commissioned officer in Mahal. He was Arik’s commanding officer during the 1948 War of Independence, and they remained friends.

Manny brought his two Leica cameras and photographed an outstanding photo exposé on October 29 and 30. He saw and smelled the “killing fields” He met with Sharon, the young soldiers who had survived the destroyed tanks and he saw how the blown tank turret, flipped upside down destroyed the lives of those brave souls inside.

Manny did see these effects and, because he was a true Renaissance man, a graphic thinker who was a painter, sculptor and political analyst, he envisioned a solution to the weak point of the tank. He described a technique to conquer that weakness to Sharon, who sent him to Maj.-Gen. Israel Tal, the developer of the famed Merkava tank.

Manny’s “leap of imagination” created what became “Blazer” or “Reactive” Armor. He designed rectangles of hollow metal boxes with an explosive charge inside. These ‘so-called’ “skirts” were placed around the neck of the tank turret so that when hit, the explosive charge therein would push the incoming ballistic missile out, thereby saving the tank and its crew. This was compatible with the primary goal of Gen. Tal’s Merkava tanks: Defense of the Tank Crew.

That, along with speed, maneuverability, effective shooting and protection against damaging desert sand, were what made the Merkava “The Tank a Jewish Mother Would Love,” as Manny called it.

He also designed a better bridge for crossing the Canal – easier to carry and assemble, and less susceptible to the huge holes the tanks had already created on the day’s existing bridge.

Manny continued to submit creative concepts for defense and offense to Israel’s military industries – for which he received his Israeli citizenship and security clearance. Many of his concepts and ideas were adopted throughout the years. He never asked for credit or remuneration but even today, I see his concepts being used, either in action or in military articles. Someday I hope to publish the “WINSTON DEFENSE DESIGNS,” either online or in a book – a very big book, with his original drawings.

The Yom Kippur War was a seminal turning point in Israel’s history. We did win. It was a miracle, given the forces mounted against us, in number and backed up the Soviet Union.

We have 40 mounted color photographs by Emanuel A. Winston, ready to show at a traveling or permanent exhibition, which will enhance our appreciation of what our men and generals went through and achieved.

The Yom Kippur War was also a seminal turning point in the lives of the Winston family. It was our second trip to Israel. We had tried to make Aliyah in 1962 but didn’t succeed. I made Aliyah on November 7, 1979. Manny died on June 12, 2012, and is now buried on the Mount of Olives.

I sold the home he built in Highland Park, Illinois, in August 2012, and brought his manuscripts and published papers, to the home I built in Israel in 1992. Two of our sons and their families also live in the Jewish state.

My heartfelt message for you, the reader, is to invite all my friends, family and Internet friends to come to Israel. This is where a Jew can be truly Jewish.

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