Israeli air force makes precision-guided weapons its top priority

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The Israeli air force has pushed the acquisition of advanced air-to-air missiles down its priority list, with purchases of stand-off-range precision-guided weapons having moved to the top.

Israel recently moved away from its traditional choice of either the Rafael Python 4/5 or Raytheon AIM-9L Sidewinder to arm its Lockheed Martin F-16 fighters, ordering a batch of AIM-9Ms using Foreign Military Financing provided by the USA.

The air force says the AIM-9M is cheaper than the Python 5, and can be carried on all of the F-16's hardpoints, unlike the Israeli design. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency in August 2007 notified Congress of the potential sale of 500 AIM-9Ms to Israel.

The Israeli air force last fired an air-to-air missile against a hostile aircraft in 1985, when one of its Boeing F-15s shot down a Syrian MiG-23.

Raytheon is meanwhile set to receive a contract worth up to $25 million to supply 35 AIM-9X missiles and related equipment for South Korea's second batch of 21 F-15K multirole fighters, according to a DSCA announcement made on 13 May.