Ramon, Israel

11 may 2008



In the north of the Negev desert, close to the town of Mitzpe Ramon and not far from the main road from Tel Aviv to Eilat one can find Ramon Air Base. Constructed with US money during the early 1980's, the base is one of a trio to have been built as compensation for the loss of a couple of bases in the Sinai desert when this peninsula was given back to Egypt following the Camp David peace agreement. The other two are Nevatim and Ovda. Today, Ramon is home to four squadrons, two of them fly the Lockheed Martin F-16I, known as Sufa in Israel, the other two fly the Boeing AH-64A/D Apache. The F-16I was built to Israeli specification using the F-16D Block 50/52 as a basis during the late nineties. The intention was to replace the F-4E Phantoms which although having been upgraded to Kurnass 2000 standard had reached the end of their useful lives. 


A squadron of 24 Boeing F-15I Ra 'am's (Thunder) had been procured as a starting point, but the aicraft's price tag made more orders unlikely. During the selection process Lockheed Martin had offered something akin to the F-16I around 1994, but the fact that the F-15I was more advanced in its development made the decision fall in the F-15I's favour. During the latter part of the decade however, Lockheed Martin managed to convince the Israelis about the soundness of their proposal and a total of 102 F-16I's were ordered. This number will be sufficient to equip four squadrons, all of which are known at the time of writing. Top right, F-16I Sufa 854 with the badge of No. 107 "Knights of the Orange Tail" from Hatzerim can be seen climbing out from Ramon. To the left, Sufa  440 is seen landing following its morning mission. The tail art belongs to No. 253 "HaNegev" sq. Note the Rafael Spice dummy bomb on the inner wing pylon.

The third squadron operational today on the F-16I Sufa is No.119 " The Bats"  sq. The F-16I differs externally from its closest Israeli counterpart, the F-16D Barak, by the addition of a pair of conformal fuel tanks. As in then case of the F-16D, the enlarged spine contains (unspecified) Israeli avionics. The conformal fuel tanks enable the Sufa to reach Iran, for instance. Shortly, a fourth squadron wil form on the Sufa. This is to be No.201 "The One" sq. 

Co-locating Apache combat helicopters with F-16I fighters can have its advantages. Both communities fight ground targets, but do so with differing equipment and tactics. The colocation can produce an exchange of experiences benefiting both communities. No doubt,this will be the case at Ramon as well. A stated above, Ramon houses two squadrons of Apaches. The oldest variant, AH-64A is known as Peten (Python) in the IDF/AF and an example can be seen to the left. Operating unit for the AH-64A Peten is No. 190 "The Magic Touch" squadron. A total of 42 AH-64A's have been received, 18 of them new built. The others were former US Army machines.

In addition to the AH-64A, 18 AH-64D's have been procured. They consist of 17 newly constructed Longbow Apaches as well as one AH-64A converted to this standard. More conversions had been planned, but plans for the conversions were dropped and new built helicopters ordered instead. The operating unit for the AH-64D is No.113 "The Wasp" sq.

In Israeli service the more capable AH-64D is known as Saraf (Serpent), a clear sign that the Israelis consider the capabilities of the D model much better than those of the A model. A similar situation is seen with the F-16 naming. 

Equipped with the latest hardware in IDF/AF service, Ramon will remain one of the most important bases in Israel for years to come.


Thanks go to the IDF/AF Public Relations Department and Mr. Ofer Zidon.

All pictures (c) Hans Rolink