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Lavi: The United States, Israel, and a Controversial Fighter Jet

Lavi: The United States, Israel, and a Controversial Fighter Jet by John W. Golan. Potomac Books, 2016, 450 pp.

Lavi: The United States, Israel, and a Controversial Fighter Jet, John W. Golan's engaging history of Israeli fighter aircraft design and acquisition, sheds new light on the strategic relationship between Israel and the United States while simultaneously underscoring the importance of airpower to the continued existence of the State of Israel. The author employs his aerospace engineering background to analyze technical aspects of the failed attempt to design and manufacture an Israeli close air support fighter aircraft called the Lavi. Meticulous research paints the backstory of the Lavi program as the history includes such topics as the aerial battles over the Sinai Peninsula during the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and the political intrigues within President Ronald Reagan's National Security Council.

Golan's main argument uncovers how individual personalities in the Israeli and US governments, complemented by repeated financial crises, ultimately doomed the cutting-edge Lavi program. The author supports this position with meticulous research and analysis, equally balancing Israeli and American perspectives. While the Lavi program never accomplished the desired output of close air support fighters, Golan successfully highlights the importance of modern Israeli aviation in galvanizing the strategic relationship between Israel and the United States. With an easily readable writing style and a thorough level of detail, the book presents an overarching history of Israeli aviation alongside an aerodynamic primer on fighter aircraft design and acquisition.

Although he effectively presents a holistic and an engaging history of the Lavi program, the author relies heavily on his technical background to offer a considerable amount of quantitative data. Additionally, appendices with aerodynamic specifications and cost breakdowns comprise nearly half of the 450 pages. This quantitative approach enables the reader to explore the data in-depth to understand concepts such as how the Lavi compares to the F-16 as well as the specific dollar amounts and capacity within Israel's acquisition programs. Ultimately, this technical approach effectively delivers a thorough understanding of Israeli and US interests while lamenting the failed Lavi program.

Lavi: The United States, Israel, and a Controversial Fighter Jet is an excellent read for Airmen. The themes of airpower dominance, technological innovation, and aviation acquisition provide critical lessons learned from the Lavi that readily translate to contemporary issues facing the United States Air Force. These lessons include the importance of rapid technological integration as well as the necessary unity of effort during the forging of a new aircraft. The Lavi never fully materialized, but this engaging account of modern airpower captures an essential chapter of US and Israeli air force history.

Maj Matthew C. Wunderlich, USAF
618th Air Operations Center
Scott AFB, Illinois


"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."

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