The somewhat popular idea that air-to-air combat is obsolete has not affected Israeli planners working on future weapons systems.
While in recent combat, the Israeli air force has been used in very short-range missions – mainly to suppress rocket launches into Israel – the planners do not see this type of combat as the shape of things to come.
And if that is the case, they have decided to spend a huge sum of money on purchasing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, as well as investing in weapons systems that some consider obsolete.
The best example is air-to-air missiles. Rafael has achieved some very important milestones in its development programme for a sixth-generation air-to-air missile.
The company has so far released very little information about that programme and has only said that the new missile will be the most capable of its kind and will have operational ranges that will be significantly greater that those of other air-to-air missiles.
So the dogfight in its classic form really is outdated, but air-to-air engagements will still be made from very long ranges.
As previously reported by Flightglobal, the Israeli company has so far only said that it is developing “building blocks” for a sixth-generation air-to-air missile.
In one indication about the likely direction of development, Rafael said that the Stunner missile developed for the David’s Sling rocket interceptor system is the basis for any sixth-generation air-to-air missile the company may be developing.
The advanced dual sensors to be used in future air-to-air missiles developed by Rafael will probably involve the “dolphin head” nose section used on the Stunner. This shape allows the two sensors to function simultaneously with no interference even in “extreme conditions”.
So while the details are very sketchy, one thing is certain: the Israeli air force is getting ready for air-to-air engagements at ranges that in the past were considered impossible.