Israel aerospace companies are known not only for technological breakthroughs, but also for their expertise in bolstering cooperation with the governments and the industry around the world. The country’s aerospace products range from airframe and aero-structures, unmanned and autonomous systems, space technology, electronics, avionics, optronics and payloads to simulation, maintenance repair and overhaul, airport services and a lot more.
With more than 25 per cent of workforce in technical professions, Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians. It has the highest concentration of high-tech industries in the world in relation to population and has the third largest number of companies trading on Wall Street. Entrepreneurship, engineering flair, venture capital and business acumen, Israel has it all. Apparently the country that has immense technological marvel also has an edge in aerospace innovations and is a highly successful military and civilian high-tech exporter.
Consulting firm Frost & Sullivan’s study reveals that Israeli exports of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from 2005 to 2012 totalled $4.6 billion ( 27,600 crore) and included unmanned aerial system (UAS) platforms, UAS fee-for-service lease and licences to manufacture Israeli UAS platforms in partner countries. The UAV sale is 10 per cent of the total volume of Israel’s defence exports and if the firm is to be believed, it is going to rise in the coming years. The likely markets are Africa, Asia- Pacific and South America, while the top purchaser of the exports spending-wise in 2005-12 has been the UK. Nonetheless, Israel which was highly dependent on the US for overall export of UAVs, is now set to gain from the US International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) stringent rules on the import and export of defence-related products.
According to the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute, 150 Israeli companies are working in aerospace-related fields, and in 2008 itself, Israel’s aerospace-related export was more than $5 billion ( 30,000 crore). Israeli aerospace portfolio includes airframe and aero-structures, unmanned and autonomous systems, space technology, electronic, avionics, optronics, payloads, simulation, maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO), airport services, and a lot more. The state manufactures all types of aerospace structure, from full-scale aviation platforms, missiles and pods to subassemblies and components. Its airframe and aero-structure solutions include large aircraft structural assemblies, complex airfoils, ultralight-weight structures, engine assemblies and components. The unmanned and autonomous systems products include micro, mini, tactical and medium-altitude log endurance (MALE) UAS, propulsion systems for UAS, energy systems, mission payloads, avionics, mission control, mission planning and support, UAS training and simulation, etc.
The country manufactures various electronic, avionics and optronics solutions including civil and military avionics, real time systems, aircraft environmental control, navigation systems, cockpit architecture and displays, lasers, obstacle avoidance and vision enhancement communications, data links, satellite communications (SATCOM) and in-flight entertainment. Aircraft modification and civil to military conversions including for special missions, passenger to cargo version, helicopter upgrades, self-protection enhancement, testing and certification, are the range of activities undertaken in the country.
Israel aerospace companies are known not only for their technological breakthroughs, but also for their expertise in bolstering cooperation with the governments and industry around the world. As a sales strategy, the country is not just selling its products, but also signing short-term lease agreements with other nations. Canada and Australia have already used drones rented from Israel in Afghanistan. Israeli companies are also working in close cooperation with global partners like BAE Systems, Boeing, CAE, EADS, Embraer, General Dynamics, General Electric, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, Raytheon, Rheinmetall Defence, Saab Group, Siemens, Snecma, Thales, etc.
Oron Oriol, Executive Vice President, Marketing, Rafael, says, “Over the coming years, we look to continue carrying out our strategy of reaching more markets and deepening our marketing efforts in existing ones, such as the Indian market. There is a growing need to increase cooperation and partnership with global clients, while maintaining knowledge transfer and adaptation of existing solutions to the specific needs of the user, thereby providing the added value in a highly competitive environment.”
According to a 2010 study, there are more than 250 electro-optics companies in Israel, having sales of about $4 billion ( 24,000 crore) annually. Further, the country’s space technology includes electro-optics, remote sensing satellites, communications satellites, satellite busses and subsystems, propulsion, lightweight space structures, space qualified electronics, processors, satellite launchers, ground support services etc. A consortium of IAI, Elbit, Elop, Rafael, Elta, Elisra, Spacecom, Gilat and many others are also designing, building and launching military and civilian satellites.
Leading Manufacturers & Products
Israel Aerospace Industries
The Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and its subsidiary ELTA Systems Ltd, recently unveiled an integrated electronic support measure/electronic intelligence (ESM/ELINT) capability for its ELM-2060 synthetic aperture radar (SAR) reconnaissance pod. The imagery is transmitted in real-time to a ground exploitation station.
IAI manufacturers a range of seats for aircraft, helicopters and ground combat vehicles. The crashworthy passenger seats being made for the Bell 525 Relentless is an example. The seats, developed and manufactured by IAI, are made from advanced composite materials and have been designed to handle severe crash-landing conditions and meet the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.
IAI’s UAV subsidiary, IAI’s MALAT manufactures a wide range of combat-proven systems, including the Heron, the Panther, Bird Eye, ETOP, Mosquito, Hunter, Searcher MK III family. The company’s UAS Mission Trainer (UMT) already delivered to foreign customers, offers high fidelity UAS training and simulation features from a basic internal pilot and operator training system to a full-mission crew training and multi-team training, which includes accurate payload models such as electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) radar and signal intelligence (SIGINT).
TaxiBot, the semi-robotic, pilot-controlled vehicle, designed to transport airplanes from airport gate to runway, was the highlight of the IAI’s stand at Paris Air Show this year. The company estimates a potential market of hundreds of millions of dollars in a decade’s time. Yehoshua (Shuki) Eldar, IAI’s Corporate Vice President, Business Development and Subsidiaries, said, "Airbus, Lufthansa LEOS and TLD Group, have cooperated closely with IAI in development of the TaxiBot system."
TaxiBot can be used with any type of airplane, narrow-body or wide-body and does not require any modification to the airplane’s systems. In addition to the substantial reduction in CO2 emissions, the system reduces foreign object damage cases by 50 per cent, cuts down noise pollution and does not use the airplane’s power resources for taxiing.
Besides its Total Solutions, which is based on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems, advanced command and control systems with sophisticated networks and integrated active defence missiles and precision strike weapon systems, IAI also unveiled its new generation compact 3D High Frequency Direction Finder system for various platforms installed on Heron UAV.
While IAI’s Tamam is a leader in gyro-stabilised electrooptical systems technology and its combat proven products are used in airborne and space applications worldwide; IAI’s Bedek Aviation is a full service provider for maintenance of aircraft, engines and components. Bedek also specialises in cargo conversion programmes and conversion and upgrade of special mission aircraft.
Operating from 15 different sites throughout Israel, Elbit Systems has created a niche for itself in the aerospace market and contributes to the defence requirements of more than 50 countries across the world. The company is a leading source of turnkey UAS solutions including advanced air vehicles, a wide range of payloads and sensors for various missions, ground control systems, ground support equipment and UAS trainers. The company also provides UAS maintenance services, supporting users from delivery to fielding and throughout the lifecycle of the system.
From the man-portable Skylark I mini-UAS to various tactical UAS and the next generation Hermes 900 MALE UAS, Elbit has a comprehensive range of UAS. In collaboration with Thales UK, Elbit has designed and developed the UK Watchkeeper Tactical UAS with a design based on the Hermes 450 UAS adapted to UK requirements. As per the company, U-TacS, the UK-based Thales/Elbit Joint Venture, has already established comprehensive UAS development, production and support capabilities to manufacture Watchkeeper UAS as well as other systems.
Elbit Systems’ Universal Ground Control Stations (UGCS) has especially been designed for maximum flexibility in respect of payload types and data links and even other types of UAS. The UGCS is capable of concurrently controlling two parallel UAS missions. Likewise, the company’s UAS Intelligence Management Centre (IMC) helps conduct coordinated missions of multiple UAS.
Of late, the company has expanded its portfolio of payloads with the launch of a Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 UAS hyperspectral payload. The company’s subsidiary in Brazil will supply electro-optic systems to Savis Tecnologia e Sistemas for the Brazilian border security programme, Sisfron. Further, the company’s electronic warfare (EW) systems are being fitted on Israel’s F-15 and F-16 fighter aircraft.
Elbit subsidiary, Elop’s stabilised electro-optical payloads provide optimal observation, surveillance, tracking and targeting capabilities under the toughest conditions. Elop specialises in advanced electro-optical products for military, government and civilian space applications. The company’s high performance airborne imagery intelligence (IMINT) systems are at the forefront of airborne photography and can be installed internally and externally in various fixed-wing aircraft. The products include Condor 2 EO/IR LOROP, Condor 2 Tac and ADRes advanced digital reconnaissance vertical photography system. Suitable for a large variety of military, VIP and commercial aircraft, Elop’s directional infrared countermeasures (DIRCM) solutions include MUSIC, Mini-MUSIC, J-MUSIC, C-MUSIC, etc.
The company has recently introduced a new C-130 Demonstrator. The C-Suite Tactical is a flexible, modular solution created to effectively perform under the harsh and demanding conditions created by low-altitude tactical environments. Providing accurate, real-time information projected on the head-up, head-down or helmet-mounted displays, the C-Suite Tactical enables a safer and more precise mission as well as increased situational awareness.
Elbit Systems maintains premier position in helicopter upgrade market too. Some of its innovations include ANVIS/HUD 24, JedEyes helmet mounted display (HMD), Helic3om, combat advanced enhanced search and rescue (CaeSAR), weapon management system (WMS), light enhanced armament package (LEAP) for helicopters, etc. Elbit has upgraded the L-39 training aircraft equipped with advanced avionics for the Royal Thai Air Force, F-5 modernisation for the Brazilian Air Force and has been the main avionics supplier for Lockheed Martin and Israel Air Force F-16s.
The company also has a niche in Eastern platform modernisations including the MiG-21 Lancer, performed with Aerostar of Romania, the Su-25 cockpit modernisation with man-machine interface (MMI) and optimised operation including NATO compatible equipment. According to the company, Elbit Systems is strengthening its presence in Brazil and other Latin American countries. Elbit is now engaged in development of next-layer technologies based on the highly advanced systems and is also concentrating on its “intelligent avionics", the decision support system to counter the information overload faced by pilots.
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd
Rafael’s Iron Dome is the only system today capable of effectively intercepting short-range rockets, claims the company. The Iron Dome is already battle-proven and has intercepted over 500 rockets that have been launched at strategic sites and populated areas in Southern Israel since April 2011, including during operation Pillar of Defence in November 2012, in which the Iron Dome intercepted 421 rockets that were fired at southern and central Israel with success rates of approximately 85 per cent.
At the end of 2012, Rafael also conducted its first full interception field test of the David’s Sling missile defence system. Currently under development in partnership with Raytheon, David’s Sling is an affordable and lethal solution against longrange artillery rockets (LRAR), short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM), cruise missiles (CM) and traditional air defence threats. The system provides optimum protection for the homeland as well as forward deployed forces.
Oriol says, “Rafael’s systems are discriminate, precise and proportional, which in turn make them economic, efficient and effective.” He cites example of Rafael’s Spike Missile Family which consists of precise tactical missiles for ranges of up to 25 km. The Spike Family missiles are multi-purpose, multi-platform electro-optic systems featuring real-time data links and can be used by infantry units or mounted on combat vehicles and attack helicopters. Spike has been sold to 20 customers around the world with over 21,000 units being supplied and over 3,000 already fired.
Rafael also has on offer fighter helicopter and vehicleborne, precise, tactical electro-optical Spike missiles with ranges of up to 12 km (Spike ER) and up to 25 km (Spike NLOS), designed to give the air force a substantial advantage in different battle scenarios.
The company’s Litening is an advanced electro-optical pod being used by more than 20 air forces around the world, mounted on a variety of fighter aircraft. Rafael has also developed Reccelite for day/night reconnaissance real-time imagery collection and data transfer via data link communications for manned and unmanned aerial platforms. The company is also a leading C4I supplier for the Israeli defence forces and others worldwide. Besides partnerships with leading aerospace and defence companies globally, the company has offset activities and industrial cooperation with more than 20 countries.
Others in the Industry
Plasan Sasa has the lightweight Armour Airborne Solutions and develops lightweight armour "cockpit protection" solutions for aircraft operating in forward battle zones. The solutions have been designed to ensure flight crew and passengers a level of protection even if the aircraft becomes a combat casualty.
Controp has a wide variety of EO/IR gyro-stabilised optical payloads for airborne applications. Its aerial thermal imaging camera payloads are ideal for air surveillance and airborne security requirements onboard airplanes of different sizes and capabilities. Rafael has acquired 50 per cent of Controp’s shares and Aeronautics, which had 18 per cent of the shares of the company, now has increased its holding to 50 per cent. Controp’s gyro-stabilised camera payloads are in use on many aerial platforms including UAVs, SUAVs, helicopters, aerostats/balloons, fixed-wing aircraft and more.
Themis provides aerial full-motion videos (FMV) and UAV services to clients and organisations around the world, for both military and civil purposes. Themis Computer provides solutions to address rugged/industrial aerospace systems requirements. Themis Engineering excels in thermal and kinetic management while Themis Tactical Systems focus on specific markets including UAVs, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft. etc.
Opgal was the first to develop and market an innovative situational awareness thermal-imaging system that is approved by the FAA. In the commercial market, the enhanced vision system (EVS) is installed in Gulfstream aircraft and the Federal Express fleet. The EVS is a highly sensitive, wide-spectrum infrared camera that provides commercial, business and military aircraft pilots with clear head-up display video images of the runway environment.
Aeronautics Ltd manufactures state-of-the-art unmanned systems, integrating surveillance equipment and network information technologies in a range of unmanned systems including land, surface and air. The range includes Dominator, Orbiter, Aerostar and Aerolight UAVs. Aeronautics’ aerial intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (AISR) system can be installed on any host vehicle such as fixed-wing aircraft or helicopter. Aeronautics operates in the UAV propulsion systems field through its subsidiary Zanzottera Engines and on the data link communication systems through Commtact Ltd. Al Cielo, a subsidiary of Aeronautics, applies unique, advanced fibre-optic technologies to a growing range of inertial control and navigation solutions for the defence and commercial industries.
The Decade Ahead
As per Israel’s Foreign Defense Cooperation and Export Department (SIBAT), Israel exports 75 per cent of its defence products. In 2012, its military exports amounted to $7.5 billion ( 45,000 crore). Interestingly, though Israel leads in UAV foreign sales, UAV exports amounted to only three per cent of defence sales.
However, experts believe that Israel’s export market for all aerospace products will increase in the coming decade. Teal Group’s 2012 market study also substantiates their belief. The Group estimates that global UAV spending will almost double over the next decade to $11.4 billion ( 68,400 crore), totalling to over $89 billion ( 5,34,000 crore) in the next decade. Israel with its newer developments is most likely to benefit from it. Today, the country is among the top ten defence exporters, but only newer technological innovations will tell where exactly Israel will be in the coming years.