LOD, Israel (Reuters) - A modified business jet that could be key to any Israeli air strike on Iran went on display on Thursday ahead of its first exhibition at an international air show.
The Israeli Air Force has already taken delivery of three of the Gulfstream G550 business jets, converted by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and a subsidiary, ELTA, to function as Conformal Airborne Early Warning and Control planes.
Such planes, crammed with sophisticated electronic gear, provide intelligence and communications assistance to strike aircraft and would likely play a central role in directing any Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear installations.
The twin-engine Gulfstream on display for Israel-based journalists at IAI’s plant near Tel Aviv’s Ben-Gurion airport bore the words “Israel Air Force” on its blue-and-white fuselage.
The Gulfstream G550 has a range of 6,750 nautical miles , which would enable it to stay on station for hours above Iran and elsewhere in the region.
An IAI spokeswoman said the decision to display the aircraft had “no connection to the recent news” about Iran, and the timing was “completely coincidental.”
The plane is to go on display next week at the Farnborough international aerospace exhibition in Britain.
Speculation that Israel, which fears Iran is seeking to build atomic weapons, could bomb Iranian nuclear installations has mounted since a big Israeli air drill in June.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a speech in Washington last month that “the Iranian threat must be stopped by all possible means.” Iran has said it is enriching uranium as part of a peaceful program to generate electricity.
Iran tested more missiles in the Gulf on Thursday, its state media said. An aide to Iran’s Supreme Leader was quoted as saying on Tuesday his country would hit Tel Aviv, U.S. shipping in the Gulf and U.S. interests in reply to any military strike.
Reporting by Avida Landau, Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Jon Boyle