Rafael has completed an initial evaluation of the requirements for a sixth-generation air-to-air missile that will be carried by the Israeli air force's Lockheed Martin F-35s.
The step was confirmed by Yosi Druker, vice-president and general manager of Rafael's air superiority systems division. In the past, the company said only that it was developing the "building blocks" for such a weapon. It also previously announced that its Stunner missile – developed for the David's Sling rocket interceptor system – would provide the basis for a future air-to-air system.
Druker says Rafael has been looking into the design of a so-called sixth-generation weapon for some years, with one requirement being for the design to be carried within the internal weapons bay of the F-35.
"The missile must have better performance than any air-to-air missile that will be used by someone in our arena for the next 20 years. In general, it must have a longer range and super manoeuvrability in short and long ranges," Druker says.
An Israeli-made air-to-air missile will form part of a package of nationally-developed systems that the Israeli air force wants to have on its future fleet of stealth fighters.
So far, Israel will be able to install its own radio and datalink systems in the first 20 F-35s it will acquire. Discussions over the integration of electronic warfare capabilities continue, and may be approved should the nation purchase additional aircraft. In such a case, Israeli sources say the most realistic option is for the air force to add on EW equipment with capabilities unique to the service.