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By Arie Egozi
The F-35 stealth fighter scheduled to be delivered to the Israeli Air Force (IAF) will be implemented with capabilities tailored to its operational needs.
The deal includes a special experiments aircraft to be operated by the air force’s flight test squadron.
Senior officials from Lockheed Martin, who manufactures the aircraft, told iHLS that the IAF has asked for and will receive a fight meant solely for testing the special systems the F-35 fighters will be equipped with. “The IAF is an old client with vast experience and they know exactly what they want,” said a company source.
The testing aircraft will be loaded with systems to be tested, mostly weapon systems. So, for instance, this fighter will be used to adjust Rafael’s air-to-air missiles to the aircraft.
Due to the plane being stealthy, it must carry weapon systems in an internal compartment rather than under its wings as with most fighters.
This testing fighter will offer, soon after its delivery to the IAF, performing various armament experiments, and not just air-to-air missiles. This aircraft will also be used to open the “flight envelope”, meaning to fully exploit its capabilities in different conditions.
As some may remember, the Americans we against allowing the IAF to install Israeli central systems, such as EW system, in the aircraft, but eventually it was agreed that the air force could “complement” the original systems with additions offered by some Israeli companies.
The source in Lockheed Martin said that the US Air Force will be closely monitoring the integration of the F-35 in the IAF. “There’s no question that operating this aircraft in Israel will be useful to draw conclusions.”
The IAF’s F-35 will also have systems allowing it high-leveled connectivity with others air force units.
Although this fighter is designed for aerial dominance and long-range attacks, it will also be suited, much like other aircrafts operated by the IAF, to operate in many different combat operations.
The IAF wants to acquire more fighters but as long as the decision regarding the boost in the US military aid to Israel in the upcoming decade has not been made, this will not be determined.