The Israeli Aircraft Industries Arava is a light STOL utility transport aircraft developed and produced by Israeli aerospace company Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
It is IAI’s first indigenously developed aircraft design to enter production.
The Arava had been developed during the 1960s, during which time it was intended to be adopted in large numbers by international customers in both the military and civil markets.
Its design draws some influence from the French Nord Noratlas transport plane.
Both the Israeli government and IAI’s management were enthusiastic to develop the Arava, seeing it as a means of advancing the country’s industrial capabilities as well as a source of revenue.
On 27 November 1969, the first prototype performed its maiden flight; it would be destroyed on 19 November 1970 after a wing strut failed mid-flight due to excessive flutter.
This accident has been attributed as being a major setback to both the Arava’s development and its sales opportunities.
Despite an otherwise unremarkable development process, the Arava would ultimately only be built in relatively small numbers; many would-be operators, including the Israeli Air Force (IAF), determined that the aircraft lacked appeal over several existing market entrants.
By 1973, the Arava programme and IAI were being heavily criticised for overoptimistic forecasting against its actual sales performance.
Following an aggressive marketing campaign and new pricing strategies, multiple customers for the type were found, mainly amongst the developing countries, especially in Central and South America, as well as outliers in Swaziland (2018 renamed Eswatini) and Thailand.
The IAF was largely unimpressed by the Arava, exercising a short-term lease of three aircraft during the Yom Kippur War of 1973; during the 1980s, the service opted to procure a small fleet of SIGINT-configured Aravas using American aid.
During 2004, the IAF opted to retire its Arava fleet.
As of 2019, a handful of aircraft remain operational around the world.
Military transport version
Modified, variant with winglets and an APU
Proposed jet-powered versionnot built.
Proposed Turbomeca Astazou powered variant, not built.
Proposed larger variant with PT-6A engines, not built.
The military version could also be equipped with a range of weapons, in order to act in anti-submarine or gunship roles.
The weapon configuration could include two machine guns in fuselage side packs (usually 0.5″ Browning), plus a third gun on the rear fuselage, and two pods containing 6 x 82 mm rocket pods or torpedoes or sonar buoys on the fuselage sides.
Another less known military version is the 202B Electronic warfare model.
This version was made in small numbers and had distinct large radomes at each end of the fuselage.
The radomes contained the Electronic Warfare mission systems.