May 14, 2009
Israel Air Force test pilots are flying MIG 29 jets and conducting dogfights against the IAF's F-16 fighters, Channel 2 revealed Wednesday evening.
The MIG 29, developed by the soviets in the 1970s, is one of the best fighter jets used by eastern and Arab countries, as well as by Syria and Iran. It was developed to counter American-made jets such the F-16 or F/A-18.
The jets were loaned to Israel by an unnamed foreign country. The experiment is meant to prepare IAF pilots for missions where they might have to fight a foreign air-force.
"We tested them - we trained the IAF pilots against them," an unnamed IAF official said.
The IAF employs ten test pilots. The training of each costs about a million dollars, but the experience gleaned from the test pilots, the unnamed official said, "is priceless."
"You fly in places and in certain conditions in a way never attempted before," an unidentified test pilot said. "Once, a piece of the jet's body broke during an experiment but the crew managed to land it safely."
A test jet is just like a regular one, except for special sensors which cover literally every aspect of its mechanical and electronic systems and can be monitored from the ground for assessment.
An additional experiment conducted recently by the air force involved loading an F-16 with weapons to its utmost capacity, or "flight in a heavy formation," as the test pilot labeled it. The experiment was meant to measure the pilot's safety and the fighter's capability when it was carrying the maximum amount of armaments.
A jet so armed might be used in a long-distance sortie. The pilots interviewed would not name which foreign countries might be the targets of such sorties, but it was clear the main target of such an ambitious mission would be Iran's nuclear installations.
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