Israel's air force has again expressed its opposition to the idea of performing heavy maintenance work on its future fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35 combat aircraft outside Israel.
As part of the US stealth fighter programme, Lockheed and the US Air Force want to establish regional maintenance centres for the F-35, with one such facility planned for Italy.
During recent talks between the Israeli air force and the USAF, Israel's opposition to using an overseas facility was underlined. A source close to the issue said the Americans understand the Israeli service's "special needs", and that alternative ways are now being evaluated to perform heavy maintenance on the F-35 at its own bases.
Deliveries from Israel's first order for 20 conventional take-off and landing F-35As are expected to start in early 2017, the source said, adding there is also an understanding that the air force will get permission to interface some Israeli-developed systems or equipment following their arrival.
This possibility applies mainly to the aircraft's electronic warfare suite, as previous Israeli requests to equip the type with domestically manufactured equipment were rejected.