Israeli F-35s to carry indigenous missiles

Tel Aviv
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The Israeli air force's Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighters will be armed with a mix of US- and Israeli-made weapon systems, sources have confirmed.

"At least one main weapon system" for the nation's conventional take-off and landing F-35As will be of Israeli origin, sources related to the issue said on 17 April. The Israeli air force has previously expressed its wish to equip the type with a nationally-developed new-generation air-to-air missile.

One potential candidate is Rafael. The company is already working on a new "Stunner" missile as part of the "David's Sling" rocket interceptor, being developed in cooperation with Raytheon. The same type could also be adapted for use as an air-to-air weapon.

The delivery of a first batch of around 20 F-35s to the Israeli air force is expected in early 2017. Negotiations on a further contract for 20-25 additional aircraft is expected to begin next year.

While the first batch of aircraft will carry the integral electronic warfare system being supplied under the Lockheed-led Joint Strike Fighter programme, it is expected that this will later be "enhanced" by additional units developed in Israel.