Depot 22 of the Israeli Air Force hardly say: ‘we can’t do it.’ When things come to a dead end, they come up with a solution of their own.
That was the case with F-15 that was severely damaged. The back half destroyed in flight, but the front half was still good. It had considered a total loss by both the prime contractor Boeing and the Israeli Air Force.
The American Air Force had it’s own beyond repair single-seater F-15 called Arrowhead which fire destroyed its back end after a flock of pelicans crashed into its engine. The pilot and navigator forced an emergency landing, according to Defense News.
The Israelis come to Boeing with a plan: let’s attach the unharmed front of the Arrowhead to the back section of the Israeli two-seaters damaged F-15B. Defense News reports. Boeing never returned the call.
“We didn’t get any answer back from Boing,” Lt. Col. Maxim Orgad, commander of Depot 22’s Engineering Division, told Defense News “because they thought we were joking.”
According to Lt. Col. Orgad, the total cost of the Frankenstein plane was less than $1 million, while a new one would cost more than $40 million. Also, two-seater F-15s keep unique competence that is hard to replicate in the service’s mainly single-seat force. He said, “when you’re dealing with a two-seater, it’s a shame to throw it away.”
Orgad emphasized the uniqueness of his unit “I don’t know of any other air force that works to revive aircraft that others would throw away or, at best, disassemble for parts. But for us, this is our mission. We can’t afford otherwise,” he told Defense News.
Orgad told Defense News of another original idea of Depot 22 unit. It was summer of 2014, days before Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, “Operation Protective Edge,” when Lockheed put out safety bulletins warning about cracks in the bulkheads in its F-16.
Lockheed said that to check if there are cracks, Israeli Air Force (IAF) should empty all the fuel in the system first. This process would take about a month for each plane, and to check all the aircraft, it would have taken years, Orgad says.
But Depot 22 had a new approach to solve this issue. They developed an ultrasonic device that could determine which planes had the cracks and how badly damaged they were. It allowed Air Force three weeks to cheque all the air crafts.
After that, Lockheed sent us one more warning saying that planes that have a rupture larger than eight millimeters should have the bulkhead replace. This only procedure could take at least 18 months.
Lt. Col. Haim Mirngoff, commander of aircraft engineering at Depot 22 had a different plan.
“Lockheed said at first, that there in no repair for this problem,” Orgad said. “But Haim’s repair not only works, but it can also implement at the Air Force base, without the need to bring the squadron for repair at depot 22.”
“If our unit had to wait for the manufacturer to develop a repair, that squadron might have missed the war,” Orgad told Defense News