Israel is considering contracting out the heavy maintenance of its future Lockheed Martin F-35As, as it seeks domestic provision of overhaul activities on the type.

Although Lockheed is establishing a European regional maintenance facility at Cameri airbase in Italy, Tel Aviv has repeatedly insisted that it will perform the majority of maintenance tasks in-country.

“We have made it clear that the maintenance of the aircraft, including at depot level, will be done in our bases,” says a senior Israeli air force officer.

Even subsystems will be sent to other countries only if “there is a technical reason”, he says.

However, with the delivery of its initial F-35 Adir fast approaching, finding a solution to the MRO issue is gaining priority.

And, wary of the heavy investment required to update its air force facilities to accommodate the Joint Strike Fighter, Israel is looking to the private sector to provide the capability, according to sources.

Israel Aerospace Industries is strongly tipped as the likely beneficiary thanks to its long experience in maintaining and upgrading the nation’s fighter fleet.

In addition, IAI is under contract to manufacture more than 800 pairs of wings for the JSF programme.

The Israeli defence ministry declined to comment.