The IAF has completed modifications to its Apaches helicopters that will enable them to use Israeli—in addition to US-manufactured—missiles as part of a project which has been undertaken over the course of recent months.
The modifications were presided over following a problem which arose during Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014 when US leaders delayed the delivery of US-made Hellfire missiles to Israel due to concerns that Israel would employ them in areas in Gaza containing population centers.
Prior to the changes, Israel's Apaches' main offensive weapon was the Hellfires, rendering their use entirely at the mercy of American decision-making. Now, however Israel has managed to find a way to circumvent similar obstacles in the future by adding equipment capable of firing Israeli-made missiles manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems—granting it a degree of independence when it comes to their use.
The modifications included the development of a new weapons system that will work in parallel to the helicopter's existing systems.
The Rafael missiles were originally designed for anti-tank warfare, but are now used for a variety of advanced purposes. They can be used in ranges of 2.5-20 kilometers and are already in use by the IDF in other units. The missiles are camera-guided enabling pilots to home in on targets. Pilots can also abort their detonation during their flight, and even launch them at targets beyond the helicopter's line of sight.
The Rafael missiles have also been sold to several foreign states, making them a particularly successful export for Israel. Some of these states—including Spain, Romania, and Colombia—are already using the missiles in their combat helicopters. The IAF, however, will be the first to do so on the Apache, which is the most common combat helicopter in the West and among non-Western allies of the United States.