(December 30, 2018 / The Tower) Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has begun production on wings that are invisible to radar for the Lockheed F-35 stealth fighter, The Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday.
“The construction of the new production line significantly upgrades IAI’s technological capabilities, automation and robotics, and will enable the company to establish itself as a major player in the military and civilian aerostructures,” a statement from IAI read.
The production line is expected to be operational for 20 years and to generate more than $2.5 billion in revenue during the next 10 to 15 years.
Initially, the production line is set to fabricate 700 kits in its first phase, with deliveries expected to start early in 2019. A 2016 statement said that the production line was expected to produce some 811 kits by 2034.
The wing sets will be manufactured using a state-of-the-art composite layer of materials called AFP (Automatic Fiber Placement). The threads, which are 3mm thick, are what give the wings the ability to escape detection by radar.
The contract between IAI and Lockheed Martin to create this production line was signed in 2013. Israel purchased a fleet of F-35 aircraft from Lockheed and took delivery of the first ones two years ago.
In December 2017, the Israeli Air Force announced that its squadron of F-35s was “operational.” In May of this year, IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin said that Israel had been the first nation to use the F-35 in actual combat.
Israel is the only country that the Pentagon allows to modify the planes, due to the close military cooperation between the two countries, as well as Israel’s experience modifying American F-15s and F-16s to integrate the jets with their own systems.
Some custom communications and sensor hardware that Israel developed for the jets has been incorporated by the United States into its own aircraft.