The US State Department has approved the possible sale of AIM-9X Sidewinder missiles and associated equipment to Israel.

The Israeli Government has requested for 600 AIM-9X-2 Sidewinder Block II all-up-round missiles, 50 CATM-9X-2 captive air training missiles and four dummy air training missiles.

The package, worth $544m, also includes missile support and test equipment, spare and repair parts, personnel training and training equipment, and related logistics and support services.

Raytheon Missile Systems will serve as the prime contractor for the programme.

The AIM-9 Sidewinder is an advanced infrared-tracking, short-range air-to-air missile. It is compatible with the F-15, F-16, F/A-18 and F-4 fighters, A-4, A-6 and AV-8B attack aircraft, and the AH-1 helicopter.

"Israel’s request for the missiles comes at a time when it is engaged in aerial strikes in the Gaza Strip."

In June, Raytheon won a contract to supply 485 AIM-9X Block II missiles for the US Navy, Air Force and the defence forces of Singapore, the Netherlands, Kuwait and Turkey.

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Israel’s request for the missiles comes at a time when it is engaged in aerial strikes in the Gaza Strip.

The air strikes are said to have killed more than 175 Palestinians and made thousands flee their homes.

On Monday, Israel shot down an unnamed aircraft launched from Gaza, with a Patriot missile near the city of Ashdod.

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said: "The shooting down of a drone by our air defence system is an example of their efforts to strike at us in any way possible."

Image: An AIM-9X Sidewinder missile attached to the port side inboard wing pylon of a USAF F-15C Eagle aircraft. Photo: courtesy of TSgt. Michael Ammons, USAF.

Defence Technology