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Born out of necessity; Israel's defence industry is somewhat unique in that its development did not benefit from a long historical process, unlike that of other countries. Indeed its roots cannot be found in traditional age-old arsenals or shipyards. In fact one can say that it was born with the nation, in 1948. (Defence Industry Report).

Unlike other nations of the area, which were able to rely on external sources for the development of their armed forces and which, to a large extent, still do, Israel was very quickly faced with conflicts of interest among its possible suppliers, mostly from the Western world. Moreover, a number of its potential enemies could count on the Soviet Union as a lavish source of defence equipment. It must be said, however, that while Israel was initially able to equip with weapon systems from the Western world, its indigenous industry also benefited from the know-how of its population of immigrants which, comparatively at the time, were of a higher technical level than that of the average developing nation.

While Israel still today relies on the western world for its defence, in terms of materiel and diplomatic support, particularly from the United States, there had been times when the need to be non-dependent was felt. The result is an amazing array of systems and equipment that this roughly six million inhabitants nation managed to develop for its own needs. In fact, short of larger equipment that would require exorbitant funds to be manufactured indigenously, this nation is able to produce almost anything it needs. Its systems are so capable that they have been long sought after by other nations.

This historical background had to have its shortcuts due to space constraints but it provides a necessary backdrop to what follows.


In the field of aircraft, Israel very quickly worked on ways of improving the aircraft it had bought from the west. A notable example was the Mirage-based Kfir. An attempt was made to develop an aircraft, the Lavi, but this soon hit the concrete wall of cost-effectiveness and technology transfer. Nevertheless, Israel has become second to none in the ability to supply upgrades for all manner of aircraft from transports to fighters and helicopters.

Amongst the aircraft for which Elbit offers upgrade packages one finds Pumas, F-5s (recently upgrading 31 aircraft for the Royal Thai Air force), F-4s, F-16s, C-130s and so forth, but what is perhaps more surprising is that the Haifa-based company is also able to give a serious extra lease on life to aircraft like the Su-25 (Scorpion) and even the MiG-29 (Sniper). The Scorpion made its debut at the Paris Air Show in 2001.

In the contest of helicopter upgrades, mention must be made here of a suite developed by IAI Lahav for the Mi-8 and -17 helicopters.

The fact that Elbit was known to have been involved in the very early stages of Helmet Mounted Displays is very well known. In fact, its technology in that domain is widespread, but all the same, the importance of the company takes another dimension when one realises that there are over 5500 Elbit helmet mounted displays being used in over 30 countries around the world.

Indeed in a number of fields Israel has proved time and again that it had innovative ideas, some perhaps tagged as bold, but when it does not pioneer, it seems never to lag too far behind. A good and recent example of this is the new Israel Air Force pilot screening method being implemented as part of a Private Finance Initiative (PFI), a concept believed to have been launched in Great Britain a few years ago. Once more Elbit is involved, but this time through its Cyclone subsidiary. The Israeli Ministry of defence has placed a contract for the supply and operation of new light trainer aircraft, a contract that also calls for the operation of the aircraft over a period of ten years. Under the terms of the agreement, Cyclone is to purchase its own aircraft, maintain them and charge the flight hours to the Israeli Air Force. In this particular instance Elbit Systems' proposal was based on the German Grob 120 A.

Airborne Electronics

Putting aircraft up in the air is one thing, but making sure they will stay there unharmed is another. Self-protection is a discipline mastered by Elisra (the Elisra Group comprises Elisra Electronic Systems, Tadiran Electronic Systems, Tadiran Spectralink and B.V.R. Systems).

To be a producer of "black boxes" is certainly not a glamorous activity but one for which pilots are most grateful. The Iews for example was proven on board Apaches, Cobras and Black Hawks, fully equipped with radar, laser and

missile warning systems as well as with ECM self-protection Jammer, CFDS, ESM/Elint and Sar.

Fully integrated, the suite provides protection and situation awareness to the pilot. While the MWS passively detects the IR radiation of a missile, the SPJ, a multi-channel jamming subsystem, generates the ECM response against pulse, continuous wave and pulse-Doppler threats.

Interestingly, Elisra has recently launched an embedded EW simulator for aircraft. Now this is a rather smart idea, on two accounts. First, because the system is installed on the aircraft itself (and triggers the real on-board self protection suite) the pilot is in his, or her normal working environment, which is something that no ground simulator will ever beat. Secondly, it has been noticed that, after a run over a training range, pilots had picked the ability to memorise all the threat areas on the ground and, with time, could even guess to where the "dangerous spots had been moved (if even they could be moved quickly enough) during a subsequent pass. With the Ifews (for inflight EW simulator), the ground is able to trigger off whatever threat it wants to simulate, at any time and over any area.

A recent addition in the field of targeting pods comes from Rafael with the Litening. Very much a Jack-of-all-trades, it carries an eight to twelve and a three to five-micron infrared sensor, a narrow and wide field of view CCD camera, a laser spot detector, a laser designator and rangefinder, an electro-optical and an inertial tracker, with a rather supple neck as it is capable of +45 [degrees]/-150 [degrees] in pitch and 400 [degrees] in roll motion.

Elta, a subsidiary of Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), is almost synonymous with radars. Known for the numerous radars it has produced for fighter aircraft, Elta has also developed a ground-based surveillance and tracking radar for operation in conjunction with the Arrow, the EL/K ground-deployed communications intelligence system as well as synthetic aperture radars for both drones and fighter aircraft. Elta is also renowned for its modular helicopter self-protection suites.


Here again this was a path paved by Israel, and today few are the nations that are not involved in the art of operating those remotely controlled aircraft. In Israel, unbelievably, no less than three companies have a finger in the drone pie and four to provide their payloads. We shall here restrict ourselves to the most recent developments

One of the latest models -- if not the latest -- is the Hermes 180, unveiled, as it happened, at the recent Asian Aerospace in Singapore. While it is still intended to be used beyond enemy gunnery range, the `180 developed on company funds by Elbit is intended to meet an identified need for high performance -- but very mobile -- systems (strictly speaking, by the way, the Hermes series is from Silver Arrow, a subsidiary of Elbit). The aircraft is compact but nevertheless carries a 32 kilogram payload with an endurance of ten hours at an altitude of 15,000 ft. The workstation, for its part, is a remarkable piece of compact, foldout and pull-out engineering. The twin-operator end product is ruggedised which easily enables it to be carried by and operated from a small van.

Meanwile, the other significant new drone from Elbit, the Hermes 1500, which belongs to the Male category (medium altitude long endurance), made its maiden flight in its modified form which entailed a wider wingspan to enable it to meet a revised requirement from the Israeli Ministry of Defence. An advanced concept technology demonstrator at this stage, the `1500 is intended to fly missions carrying a variety of payloads that include oblique viewing or scanning electro-optical sensors, Sars, radio relays and sigint gear and, given its range, would also carry beyond line of sight wideband satellite links. Sigint and datalinks, by the way, are typical of Elisra's activities. For instance, Elisra's DataLink 2000 is lightweight and has a low power consumption package plus a 200 km line-of-sight operating range, extending to 350 km with an airborne or ground relay.

On the drone payload front, Elop, which has recently merged with Elbit, plays a major role. One of the firm's fields of specialisation is lasers for designators. A recent development is the use of solid-state optical parametrics oscillators (OPO) that result in higher compactness and reliability of designators and rangefinders. Elop is also very active in systems for fighting vehicles, thermal imaging, countermeasures, displays and, of course, stabilised payloads.

Drones have also been a path long explored and mastered by IAI. The firm is famous for its Pioneer, Ranger, Searcher and Hunter systems that have been exported to numerous countries and seen operational use. For example, the Pioneer series saw combat in both the Gulf and Bosnia, being operated by the US Navy. The Scout UAV System has played an important combat role both in the service of the Israeli ground forces and Air Force during the 1982 war in Lebanon, while the Hunter was selected by the US Army and the US Marines for their short-range requirements. The Heron, on the other hand, puts IAI in the "Male" league since this 250 kg payload bird has demonstrated a 52-hour endurance. One of the most recent drones presented by Israel Aircraft Industries, however, is the Aerosky.

The Aerosky is described as a compact UAV system designed for close range day and night reconnaissance and surveillance target acquisition and designation, border patrol and coast guard missions. It has a payload capability of 18 kg for an all-up weight of 100 kg and provides a real-time communications range of between 50 and 100 kilometres.

Other Electronics

Elint is a "sport" in which Israel has had to indulge for quite some time now. Elisra and its Tadiran Electronics Systems subsidiary have been supplying a number of solutions for air sea and ground-based solutions. Space here prevents us from examining all systems available. However, the well-known GES-210E Elint system is available in many varying configurations that are even able, according to Elisra, "to handle future dense combat scenarios, including emitters implementing Eccm (Electronic Counter CounterMeasures) techniques". All Elint systems are designed to interface, thus providing, through remote Elint centres, a comprehensive combined network.

Through Tadiran, Elsira is also active in C4I, including manpack receiving systems complete with a ruggedised portable computer/mapping system, vehicle-mounted or shipborne tactical remote receiving systems as well as systems for theatre missile defence -- in this instance involving the Citron Tree battlefield management centre in the context of the Arrow missile. This provides us with a soft transition to the missile business of Israel's defence industry.

Another firm active in electronic warfare is Rafael with the Long Star heliborne suite. The company also produces the EOSDS electro-optical defence suite that includes the Guitar passive missile warning system and the airdas directional infrared countermeasures system.


We won't get back to the over-repeated story of the Eilat. Suffice to say that Israel now has an amazing position in the missile market: Arrow anti-ballistic, Derby air-to-air, Gill/Spike anti-tank, Msov, to mention just but a few of the latest.

Unlike the current trend in both the Unites States and in Europe, there is not one unique missile specialist in Israel but several, in a situation that beats that of the drones; even broadly speaking, there is no clear manufacturer/niche rule.

After multiple tosses of a coin, the author starts with ... Rafael (it could have been IAI, or IMI). Located on the hill overlooking Haifa, Rafael is not exactly reputed to be extensively garrulous, though recently the firm began to open up when export begun to be a necessity. Perhaps the most popular weapon from Rafael today is the Gill/Spike anti-armour weapon - popular because it has won competitions over both the American Javelin and the European Trigat MR (contributing to the latter's demise). The Spike has a longer range thanks to an optical fibre link. A much larger, helicopter-launched, 10,000-metre range derivative is called the NTD. It uses a Top Lite electro-optical sight that enables the missile to be launched locked or unlocked. It is in low-rate production for "a customer".

Rafael has a long history as an air-to-air missile house with its Sidewinder class of Pythons, the latter generation being the Python-4. There had been rumours of a dramatically new development for a while until the Derby was officially revealed taking many by surprise, as this is a true beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile. Rafael is also known for its warheads and is supplier, inter alia, to IAI for the Barak in this department.

Turning to a larger type of air defence missile one bumps into the Arrow developed by Israel Aircraft Industries. This programme has had its ups and downs to say the least, mainly because of political hurdles with the United States. Indeed, a potent antimissile missile like the Arrow, which incorporates American technology, can be "misused" to repeat the term used by the US as early as in 1993. The concerns emerged about the compliance of the missile with the Missile Technology Control Regime which monitors the proliferation of missiles capable of carrying a 500 kg warhead at a range of over 300 km. Anyway, the first deployment of a battery of Arrow 2 missiles was effected in 2000 and a test firing in June over the Mediterranean involving a Black Sparrow target from Rafael was successful.

The vertically launched Barak, which also involves Rafael, is a notable missile that can be launched from a ground mobile station as well as from a ship. The Barak was the first fully operational 360 [degrees] shipborne self-defence missile.

Israel Military Industries is probably most associated with land equipment and vehicle-launched guided rounds. However, IMI is also largely involved in airborne equipment as we have already seen in the airborne electronics section of this industry overview.

The Delilah is in fact half way between an air-launched drone and a cruise missile. Powered by a turbojet engine, it flies a GPS-monitored pregrogrammed flight path and has a loiter and re-attack capability. The Delilah weighs 185 kg, has a payload capacity of 30 kg and a range of 250 kilometres.

IMI has also developed another weapon, but being unpowered this is more of a gliding weapon delivery system. Designated MSOV for modular stand-off vehicle, it weighs 1050 kg of which 675 account for the dispensing warhead, which delivers dual-purpose bomblets, combined effects munitions, runway busting munitions etc. Launched from high altitude, the GPS/INS-guided MSOV can wreck havoc from a range of 100 km.

The PB500A1 from the same firm, on the other hand, is what one would call a guided bomb. However, this 425 kg job has a penetration capability of two metres of reinforced concrete into which its blasts off its 100 kg load of explosives.

Again not quite a missile, but rather more a rocket, the Shipon is a shoulder launched, dual-mode tandem-warhead anti armour/bunker weapon. Offering a range of about 600 metres, it does, however, incorporate an electronic fire control system to enable it to cope with moving targets. A Shipon 2 with a range of 1000 metres is being developed.

Land Systems

We shall not dwell here on the numerous systems that have earned Israeli firms like IMI and Rafael a worldwide reputation in the field of armoured vehicles and add on armour respectively. The first is also well known for its guns and personal weapons (Uzi, Galil and the more recently introduced Tavor 21) and the second for its vehicle mounted turrets (although a trend for remote-control turrets is developing and Rafael will feature in an article to be soon published by Armada International on the subject). IMI is also known for the extensive range of tank rounds it has on offer (a subject that inevitably brings fuze manufacturer Reshef to memory) and for the development of the Sabra II modernisation kit for M60 tanks.

In the context of armoured vehicles, mention must also be made of Elop, which manufactures complete fire control systems, and of Azimuth the navigation systems specialist that offers interesting targeting and navigation solutions like the Comet. The latter is a relatively simple add-on system.

More recent IMI developments include the setting of a group to handle home security needs. This may sound like a trendy designation born out of "nine-eleven" as the Americans call the tragic airliner attacks on 11 September 2001, but in the case of Israel, the idea dates back to 1998 and was followed about two years later by the establishment of a "Training Academy". This academy, located halfway between Ramallah and Jerusalem offers what it calls "tailored packages" that can cover the training needs of anything from Special Ops to bodyguards. Training can be effected with the customer's own weapons or arms supplied by IMI.

Another domain on which IMI has recently embarked is that of trajectory correction for mobile launcher rocket systems. Because the programme is being developed under an Israel Defence Forces contract, IMI is not able to reveal much on the modus operandi only that the correction is integrated into the rocket system. Asked for clues by the author, an IMI official replied that "correction is made after the rocket is launched because the rocket is tracked. The tracking method is classified but is not radar and not EO". The system is in its final stages of development.

Another recent development involves IMI `self-destruct fuze for bomblets. Indeed the firm informed the author in February 2002 that it had finished qualifying its system for all home and foreign cluster bomb bomblets, whether they originate from the West or East. A mechanical device, the fuze self-destructs the bomblet after 70 seconds of impact if the latter fails to detonate the warhead. Should self-destruct also fail, the round is automatically neutralised.

Israel's Mettle

The aim of this article is not to provide a catalogue of the Israeli industry's products, but rather a view of its capabilities as seen through a wide-angle lens. Also companies are not listed in order of importance -- they are all important: for example, one may argue that a tank manufacturer is important, but without the less glamorous and less visible fire control system a tank is, after all, very much a sitting duck. So emphasis is put on the overall nation's capabilities in advanced technologies rather than on its individual companies' products.
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Article Details
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Author:Biass, Eric H.
Publication:Armada International
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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