Israel's Air Force can start preparing the runways after the vice president of Lockheed Martin, Steve O'Bryan, announced on Tuesday at the Paris Air Show that Israel will be the first country to receive the F-35 American-made stealth fighter jet.
The state-of-the-art fighter aircraft, the first of which are scheduled to be delivered to Israel at the end of 2016, are also expected to be fitted with an Israeli "twist."
O'Bryan said Lockheed Martin was examining the feasibility of adding detachable fuselages to the plane, manufactured by the Israeli company Cyclone, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems, mainly because the fuselages would not be detrimental to the plane's stealth capabilities. In practical terms, this means that the plane would have a longer flight range while still remaining invisible to enemy radar.
The first of 20 versatile, single-engine F-35s, ordered by Israel in October 2010 at a cost of $2.75 billion, are scheduled to arrive in 2016 at the earliest, but the Air Force is already setting up a new infrastructure to absorb the stealth jets.
The Israeli business daily Globes recently reported that new bomb-proof underground pens for the fifth-generation jets are being built to accommodate the F-35s, along with special testing installations that minimize the noise of the jets' Pratt & Whitney F-125 engines.
The Israeli government has approved the acquisition of a second batch of 20 F-35s despite the plethora of problems and setbacks that continue to plague Lockheed Martin's development program.
Ultimately, the Israeli Air Force wants 75 F-35s. These will replace Lockheed Martin's F-16I Sufas and Boeing's F-15 Ra'ams as the strategic strike force.
The Air Force currently has 100 Sufas and 25 Ra'ams, backed by about 185 lower performance F-16 Fighting Falcons and F-15 Eagles.
In the meantime, Elbit revealed an item from its "Music" systems: a plane and helicopter defense system that protects the aircraft against incoming missiles. The technology is predicated on "blinding" an incoming missile with a high-powered laser (DIRCM).
"In the world there are thousands of personal rocket launchers; they can be bought on the Internet without too much trouble," said Adi Dar, CEO of Elop (Electro-optics), who presented the system at the air show. "Our system is the only one with an international operating license, which is why any aircraft fitted with it can land in any airport in the world."
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. was also successful at the air show. The company's Spice-250 glide-bomb won a hefty contract from a client who refused to be named.
"In the world of precision ordnance, there is actually an advantage to the small size of this bomb," said Yanir Gat of Elbit.
The deals, according to an announcement by the Israel Export Institute, are an addition to the approximately $810 million in exports of aircraft and accompanying parts from January to May 2013, a 12 percent increase from last year.
Ofer Zachs, CEO of the IEI, said: "The demand for unmanned aerial vehicles, for the purpose of internal security and civilian fields, especially stands out."