Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has made a strategic decision to enter the general aviation market.

The surprise decision is linked to an effort to better utilise the company's capabilities in the reality of changing markets. According to Gad Cohen, IAI's corporate executive vice-president for commercial aviation, the company is focused on small general aviation "jet or turboprop aircraft, for four to six passengers".

IAI closed its production line for the Gulfstream G150 last year, leaving the G280 as the only aircraft currently manufactured by the company. "The G280 line is operating in a satisfying rate, but we need to expand the use of our design and production capabilities," Cohen says.

FlightGlobal reported in 2015 that IAI had begun a preliminary evaluation related to the development of a small executive jet that would offer low-cost travel up to a range of 1,300nm (2,400km) with six passengers.

Cohen reveals that the company's new efforts go beyond such a performance. "We may go with a partner to the development and production of a current general aviation aircraft, or also with a partner to develop something new," he says.

Discussions are in progress with some potential partners, and he notes: "We talk about more than one programme."

IAI also is looking at developing its capabilities in the commercial aerospace sector, including potential co-operation with Chinese manufacturers.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently visited China, with officials from both nations discussing steps to strengthen economic and scientific relations.

According to Israeli sources, a strengthened relationship with China could enable IAI to pursue opportunities such as in civil aircraft manufacturing and providing design and certification expertise in support of projects such as Comac's ARJ21 and C919 airliners.

"We have a lot to offer," Cohen notes of any such potential collaboration.