April 20, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis arrived in Israel for a two-day visit as part of a broader tour of the Middle East. As the first member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet to visit Israel, Secretary Mattis met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot. In his meeting with President Rivlin, Secretary Mattis highlighted the importance of the United States guaranteeing Israel’s security: “We are committed to Israel's defense. We support Israel's internal security and Israel's external security.” He also warned about the growing threat of Iran’s destabilizing regional activities.
F-35 Lockheed Martin fighter jets touched
down at Israel’s Nevatim Air Force Base on April 23, joining the two aircraft that had been delivered in December 2016. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) is expecting to take delivery of additional F-35 planes over the next several months and hopes to have an operational squadron in place by the end of 2017. The IAF also intends to build a simulator to train pilots this year. In the meantime, IAF pilots have been training on simulators in the United States. In 2016, Israel’s security cabinet unanimously approved the purchase of 17 additional F-35s from Lockheed Martin, bringing the total number of the advanced fighter jets on order to 50. Israel’s decision to acquire additional F-35s was made possible through annual U.S. security assistance, which is largely spent in the United States.
Israel Defense Forces announced on April 27 that it had successfully intercepted a projectile fired from Syria using the U.S.-supplied Patriot missile defense system. According to initial reports, the projectile was a drone that entered Israeli airspace over the Golan Heights. Israel has operated the Patriot air defense system since the 1990s. Israel similarly launched Patriot missiles to defend against Syrian projectiles that crossed into Israeli airspace in two separate incidents in 2014: an unmanned aerial vehicle in August and a Syrian Air Force fighter jet in September.
Israeli Air Force (IAF) took
delivery of two U.S.-provided cargo planes at Nevatim Air Base the week of April 10. The planes, an upgraded C-130 Hercules and a C-130J Super Hercules, will be integrated into the IAF’s tactical transport division. At a ceremony to mark the aircraft’s arrival, Brig. Gen. Eyal Grinboim—the commander of Nevatim Air Force Base—said, “There is no better way to celebrate the holiday of liberation than with the aircraft that allow us to reach any destination in the world, at any time and in any weather, and perform ground breaking missions that we haven’t executed before, with heightened safety.” Last year, Israel declared operational
its first C-130J squadron. The aircraft is the most modern cargo transport in the IAF fleet, which had used the older Hercules C-130s since 1971.
defense electronics firm Elbit Systems announced that its U.S. subsidiary won a $50 million contract from the U.S. Navy to provide the Helmet Display and Tracker System (HDTS) with the Continuously Computed Impact Point (CCIP) algorithm for the service’s MH-60S helicopter fleet. The systems will enhance helicopter pilot and crew situational awareness, accuracy of weapons delivery and flight navigation. According
to the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer Raanan Horowitz: “Elbit Systems of America is strategically focused on delivering capabilities that aircrews can trust to increase mission effectiveness. The HDTS and CCIP are prime examples of our advanced display and targeting solutions that give aircrews a decisive edge during critical missions.” The work will be conducted in Fort Worth, Texas and completed by 2021.