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Israeli Phantoms Volume 2

Israeli Phantoms Volume 2 Book Review

By Michael Benolkin

Date of Review December 2009 Title Israeli Phantoms Volume 2
Author Andreas Klein, Shlomo Aloni Publisher AirDOC
Published 2009 ISBN 978-3-935687-82-9
Format 160 pages, hardbound MSRP (Euro) 39.95€ less 7% VAT for non-EU customers


AirDOC just released a two-volume masterpiece from 'Double Ugly! Books' which provides the best coverage of the F-4E Phantom II in Israeli Air Force service to date. This second volume covers the history of the Phantom in Israeli service from 1989 to present.

After the Phantom had proven itself so well in combat, the IDF/AF started working on a modernization program that enhanced the avionics and weapons capabilities of the aircraft. Under the Kurnass 2000 banner, the most significant improvement was replacing the J79 engines with the Pratt and Whitney PW1120 engine. Had this part of the program completed, the Kurnass would have had a thrust-to-weight ratio greater than 1, just like the F-15 and F-16. Could you image? Boeing had the lead on this upgrade and one other interesting engineering update: a ventral conformal tank that would have provided the semi-recessed AIM-7 wells in the tank which would have covered over the fuselage wells.

One 'Super Phantom' was fitted with the PW1120s and the test aircraft exceeded Mach 1 in level flight without afterburner, just like the F-16. In the end, it was McDonnell Douglas that blocked the upgrade as they were concerned that it would impede F/A-18 sales. The remainder of the Kurnass 2000 modernization moved forward and the IDF/AF operate some of the most modern Phantoms on the planet.

Another interesting modification was the F-4E(S) that transformed a standard F-4E into a super reconnaissance platform. This performance enhancement program was being worked in conjunction with the US Air Force initially as the RF-4X, but the program was eventually cancelled. Nevertheless, the IDF/AF moved forward with a less-exotic version dubbed F-4E(S) that incorporated the HAIC-1 camera system in unslatted F-4E airframes. In addition to these three high-flyers, the IDF/AF operated a number of RF-4E reconnaissance Phantoms (dubbed Kurnass Tsilum).

This title is well-written and very well illustrated with period photographs, color and black & white, to tell the story of the second 20 years of Kurnass operations. The title coverage includes:

  • F-4E Kurnass 2000
  • RF-4E Kurnass Tsilum - Reconnaissance
  • F-4E(S) Shablul - Operation Peace Jack
  • Squadron 69 'The Hammers'
  • Squadron 105 'The Scorpions'
  • Squadron 107 'The Knights of the Orange Tail'
  • Squadron 119 'The Bats'
  • Squadron 201 'The One'
  • Manat - Test and Evaluation Squadron
  • Kurnass 2000 Walk Around
  • RF-4E Walk Around
  • F-4E(S) Walk Around

As you can see in the coverage, this volume not only covers the later modifications to the Kurnass, it also provides a nice photo and narrative history of each of the squadrons that operate(d) the type. The appendices provide further information including weapons loadouts, detailed line drawings, color profiles of the later camouflage patterns, and lots of data on the aircraft that were in the IDF/AF inventory and their previous source (new aircraft or USAF loaned airframes).

Whether you're a Phantom Phreak, a modern aircraft modeler, or a military aviation historian, this title and its Volume 2 companion are the best coverage of the IDF/AF Kurnass I've seen and are a must-have for your library.

This title is available directly from AirDOC's website

My sincere thanks to AirDOC for this review sample!