Israeli defence industry.

Headline: Lack of consolidation hasn’t stopped technology

 Arie Egozi / Tel Aviv


Some cynics in Israel say that it’s not that the country has defence industries but the other way round. This saying is of course an exaggeration but one fact is solid – Israeli defence industries are big, advanced and versatile. With defence exports of more than US $6 billion a year, Israel has become a member of the ” big 5″ club of top exporters. All estimates show that the export of defence items from Israel will continue to grow into the foreseeable future.

The sector is divided into state owned and public companies. The state owned are Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Rafael and Israeli Military Industries (IMI).
In spite of some efforts of the government – or more accurately “gestures” -to consolidate the state owned sector, the trend that affected the shape of the defence industries in the US and Europe has stopped far from the borders of Israel.
The current declaration of some Government Ministers and officials about a “concrete” plan to merge IMI into Rafael has proved so far to be just talk.


Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI)

IAI is the biggest state owned defence entity. This company has made Israel a member of the exclusive space club of countries that are capable of developing and manufacturing launchers and satellites. IAI manufactures the Sahvit family of launchers and two lines of imaging satellites – those with electro optical payloads ( Offeq, Eros) and those with Synthetic Aperture (SAR) radars(Tecsar).
IAI is also the manufacturer of Israel’s Amos communication satellites that have huge areas of coverage.
Israel is now the only country in the world with a fully operational ground based Theater Ballistic Missile Defense system. The Arrow-2 has been in service for some time and its successor the Arrow -3 is in development. The Arrow-3 is designed to intercept longer range ballistic missile with unconventional warheads.
While the defence side of IAI is very dominant, its civil operation is also extensive. Its subsidiary Bedek is overhauling many types of aircraft and has become one of the world centers for conversions of passenger aircraft to cargo aircraft.
The company’s expertise has led to it being very active in the naval arena. IAI develops and produces naval/maritime radars and EO payloads for various platforms such as helicopters, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and other aircraft. The company’s range of naval missiles includes the proven Barak naval point-defense missile for both sea-to-sea and sea-to-air targets and naval platforms including advanced patrol boats. IAI also modernizes and upgrades vessels, weapon systems, defense systems, and conducts system integration for customers worldwide.

Operational experience and market needs allowed IAI to develop the Barak-8, which is a more capable point defense missile that will have at least two versions. According to foreign press reports, India is involved in the development phase and will purchase the system for its navy.
IAI is a world leader in totally integrated UAS solutions, with more than 600,000 operational hours of intelligence and targeting missions. The company offers systems from tactical close range through to Medium Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) systems.
With a range of UAS from micro to one with a wingspan of a Boeing 737, IAI is a major supplier to the world market for uninhabited systems – a market that is growing at a super fast pace.

IAI’s radar know-how is mainly in its Elta division, which has made the company a leading manufacturer of Airborne Early Warning platforms. The company has supplied two Russian made IL-76 transports converted to highly advanced AEW systems to India and a third one will be supplied next year. The Company has also put AEW and Sigint equipment on Gulfstream G-550 business jets, and supplied this solutiom to the Israeli Air Force. Singapore is also a client for this type of platform and is believed to have three in service.

The MBT division of IAI is in charge of developing some very advanced weapons systems. The Barak-8 point missile that is currently developed for India is only one example. Loitering weapon systems continue to gain greater popularity among advanced armies and the IAI ‘Harop’ is supplied to the German Army and other clients.






Israel Military Industries (IMI) is a defence weapon system house, specializing in the development and manufacture of offensive and defensive solutions for the modern battlefield and for Homeland Security and to counter terror threats. IMI’s state- of- the- art advanced systems for ground, air and naval forces are based on the extensive experience of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Most products are combat-proven and have been qualified by the Israel Defence Forces, USA Military (Army, Air Force & Navy) and NATO members.
IMI designs, upgrades, produces and integrates full combat solutions, as well as professional training systems and services.
The company manufactures air-to-ground weapons such as the Delilah stand-off missile and a full line of penetration bombs, tactical air-launched decoys, armor protection suites for helicopters and transport airplanes and very advanced flare and chaff systems.
The company is a source for very advanced ammunition and is also active in the upgrade of old tanks and APCs.

Two years ago IMI completed the upgrade of the Turkish army’s fleet of M-60 MBT. The company has developed a line of advanced artillery rockets and the IDF is currently evaluating them as a substitute for close support fire supplied now by the air force.

IMI is a main supplier of small caliber ammunition and is very active in add-on systems for assault rifles that increase their accuracy when used as a grenade launcher. IMI in its Givon division is developing and manufacturing the boosters for the Israel Shavit satellite launcher.

The company has been suffering in recent years from a cash flow problem. This was caused mainly by a pension plan that was created some years ago and by the fact that the Ministry of Defence prefers to use the US foreign military funds (FMF) granted to Israel each year for the purchase of basic items like ammunition.
An effort to sell parts of IMI to other defence companies in Israel has failed and now another effort is being made to merge it with Rafael.



Elbit Systems is Israel’s largest publicly-owned defence technology enterprise. The company is engaged in a large range of programs throughout the world. The company, which includes Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries, operates in the areas of aerospace, land and naval systems, command, control, communications, computers, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR), Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), advanced electro-optics, electro-optic space systems, EW suites, airborne warning systems, ELINT systems, data links and military communications systems and radios.

The company also focuses on the upgrading of existing military platforms, developing new technologies for defense, homeland security and commercial aviation applications and providing a range of support services.
Elbit systems is very active in aircraft and helicopter upgrade projects, advanced avionics, helmet-mounted systems, head-up displays, digital maps, mission computers, aerial reconnaissance systems and guided munitions systems. Its revolutionary pilot helmet has been selected for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Elbit has become a major global UAS supplier and was selected to provide the Hermes-450 system as the basis for the British Army’s WATCHKEEPER Program. The company also offers Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), unmanned turrets and autonomous weapon systems.
Elbit manufactures fire control systems, thermal imaging and laser systems, displays, electrical turret drives and overhead remote-control unmanned turret weapon systems. The company is also a world-leader in Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence products (C4I), including information and battle management systems and software-intensive C4I programs for various applications. Selected to lead the IDF’s Digital Army Program, Elbit Systems is integrating all land C4I applications and systems for this ground-breaking program.
Elbit Systems is a world leader in military communications equipment and systems. The ELOP division of Elbit systems is manufacturing some of the most advanced electro optical payloads available on the market.
These are used by infantry soldiers, mounted on APC’s and tanks, combat vessels and carried by UAVs and by Israel’s spy satellites.
Elbit is using its unique technologies to develop training and simulation systems, across-the-board systems engineering and integration expertise applied to air, ground and naval training and simulation solutions.
The Elisra Group, now fully owned by Elbit Systems , specializes mainly in EW suites, airborne warning systems, ELINT systems, artillery C4I systems and data links for UAS and guided munitions.

Rafael Advanced Defence Systems develops and produces state-of-the-art armaments for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) while deriving its economic strength from international sales. The company provides innovative solutions for underwater, surface, land and air needs all the way through to space systems. Rafael focuses on such areas as Electronic Warfare (EW), Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I), training and simulators, armor and precision-guided weapon systems. The company has also formed partnerships with civilian counterparts to develop commercial applications based on its proprietary technologies.

The company’s missiles division designs, develops and manufactures a variety of guided weapons, including air-to air, air-to-surface, anti-tank missiles and air defense systems, as well as electro-optic systems for target acquisition, laser designation and reconnaissance purposes and C4I systems for net-centric warfare. The division’s key products include: the Python-5 and Derby air-to-air missiles; surface to air systems including the Spyder; point defence system Iron Dome and David Sling that are aimed at killing rockets; and finally the the Barak antimissile naval air defense system that is a joint programme with IAI.

The Iron Dome recently proved to be very effective when it intercepted 8 of 9 BM-21 GRAD rockets launched from the Gaza strip into Israel.

Rafael also manufactures the Spike family of electro-optic multi-purpose missile systems, as well as the Litening and TopLite navigation and targeting pods, the RecceLite real-time reconnaissance pod and the SpotLite electro-optic small arms detection system.

Rafael’s Ordnance and Protection Division develops and produces systems for land combat forces and underwater defense including: active, reactive and passive protection systems for land combat vehicles; remote controlled weapon stations; naval and land acoustic systems; anti-torpedo warfare – as well as laser and high-powered, microwave-based, energy-directed weapons. In addition, the division also specializes in homeland security applications. The division’s key products include: the Trophy active protection system, advanced armor for the American Bradley and AAV7 AFVs, the Samson family of remote controlled weapon stations, the Carpet mine breaching and counter-IED system, as well as the Scutter reactive expendable acoustic torpedo decoy. In addition the division also produces and supplies the Protector naval unmanned surface vehicle.

Rafael’s Manor division develops rocket motors and space propulsion systems, warheads and pyrotechnic subsystems, stand-off breaching systems and naval decoys.





Innocon is a small manufacturer that has been developing and building Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) ranging from micro UAV weighing 6 kg, to a 1,000 kg full sized platform, equipped with the company’s proprietary Command & Control Systems. The company delivers either complete systems or major sub-systems. Innocon says it uses its very advanced Command & Control technology, to develop advanced UAVs.
The combination of on-board/ground computers with the proprietary, modular software enables the ability to employ small, low-cost UAV for missions that usually would require much larger and more costly aircraft.
According to the company, the Elbit systems Hermes-90 UAV is based on a design of Innocon and the company is developing now some other very “exotic” systems and claims that in doing so they will help to solve some problems that limit the use of UAVs.
Innocon is a privately held company; it is currently evaluating some investment and cooperation proposals that will leverage the present capabilities into becoming a significant player in the very large, and steadily growing, world UAV market.


Blue Bird


BlueBird is another small and interesting UAV manufacturer. The company specializes in the design, development and production of tactical UAV’s and peripheral equipment.
BlueBird solutions are specially designed to deal with contemporary homeland security (HLS) challenges. With a wide spectrum of uninhabited platforms, all operating from a unified, intuitive and friendly Ground Control Station, BlueBird’s rapidly deployed UAVs are cost-effectively and reliably performing all HLS missions, in all weather and without any terrain limitations.

BlueBird has identified the field of real-time intelligence generated from small and smart platforms as a critical requirement in modern homeland security and civilian applications, and offers to the market a spectrum of advanced solutions.

These include:

The MicroB – a micro UAV that provides features previously found only in larger UAS (persistent surveillance, digital communication), but with all the advantages of a smaller UAS.
The SpyLite – A Mini UAV that delivers extended performance envelope, of 4 hours mission time, ability to fly in 36,000ft and impressive mission range of 60Km.
The Boomerang – A Mini UAV that provides Tactical UAV capabilities (Day and Night payload simultaneously and 10 hours mission time).


CONTROP’s main product lines include automatic passive intruder detection systems for coastal surveillance, port and harbor security, border surveillance, security of sensitive sites, perimeter security surveillance and ground troops security; high performance stabilized observation payloads used for day and night surveillance on board UAVs, aerostats/balloons, helicopters, light aircraft, maritime patrol boats and ground vehicles; thermal imaging cameras with high performance Continuous Zoom Lens and state-of-the-art image enhancement features, and more.
CONTROP’s payloads are gyro-stabilized in two or three axis, using 3, 4 or 5 gimbals for applications in helicopters, aircraft or ground surveillance vehicles, UAVs, Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs), land vehicles or naval vessels, as well as sensors protecting fixed sites. These payloads can carry multiple sensors or a single camera, according to the user’s requirements.

CONTROP was one of the world pioneers in the development of scanning & observation surveillance camera systems. These sensors provide both observation and panoramic scan capabilities using a single camera observation system. The company has been delivering such systems since the late 1990’s, meeting a wide range of operational requirements with numerous military and governmental agencies. Typical applications are Intruder Detection Systems for border protection, perimeter security for air bases and other strategic sites, coastal and harbor control and defense applications.

CONTROP has developed a range of cooled and uncooled, high performance thermal cameras with continuous zoom lens, providing night, daylight and adverse weather visibility.


The G-NIUS Unmanned Ground Systems (UGS) is a proof that IAI and Elbit systems can cooperate successfully.
This joint stock company is developing a variety of unmanned ground system solutions, which are all based on a common, versatile and layered avionics suite.
Some of the company’s products are already being used along the border between Israel and Gaza.
Others are still in the development phase and are attracting interest from many armed services in the world.



RADA is a recognized world leader in the field of airborne video and data
recording. The company’s inertial navigation solutions (INS), based on Fiber Optic Gyros (FOG) or Micro-Electro Mechanical Sensors (MEMS), are integrated in a wide range of airborne and land military applications.
RADA’s radar technology provides compact and affordable sensors for
point and perimeter surveillance.
Based on its extensive engineering experience and product range, the
company also offers complete system solutions, in avionic upgrade suits
for military and Special Mission aircraft, as well as in video and data
recording and management systems.




Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) was founded from the base of the small arms division of IMI that was sold off a few years ago.
IWI’s products include the family of the TAVOR Assault rifles and the Negev light machine gun (LMG).

The Tavor Assault Rifle is the most modern weapon in terms of technology. Among its advantages is the fact that it is a compact rifle, though with a long barrel due to its bull pup configuration. The weapon includes an integral reflex sight to enhance its precision. In addition, night or day telescopic sights can be easily fitted with no need of zeroing.

The Negev LMG 5.56mm is a lightweight configuration machine gun, which comprises semi automatic, or automatic mode capabilities allowing maximum firepower for infantry combat platoon.




Aeronautics is another unmanned air systems (UAS) manufacturer with some unique products.
The nature of the products resulted recently in a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with US defence and aerospace giant Boeing about the sales of their Dominator UAS system. The Dominator is based on the Diamond DA-42 twin engine aircraft. The prototype flew for the first time in June 2009. The UAS is powered currently by two Thielert diesel engines and can be equipped with a variety of payloads.
The Dominator 2 has an endurance of 28 hours and is capable of carrying a 300 kgs payload. Its max takeoff weight is 2000 kgs.
The maximum altitude is 30.000 feet with maximum speed of 190 kts .The Dominator is aimed at the high end of the MALE UAV market.
Boeing has teamed with Aeronautics to meet the growing demand for MALE systems. The initial marketing efforts will be made by Boeing in NATO member countries and also in Australia, Switzerland and Austria.
The Dominator is operational in Turkey where it is used by the army, with the system being leased. Operators from the Israeli company perform takeoff and landing while the mission is controlled by the Turkish army.
Another system under development by the private company is the Picador unmanned helicopter.
The Picador is based on the Dynali H2S kit helicopter. Aeronautics has acquired a major stake of the Belgian kit helicopter company and plans to assemble it in its facility in Yavne in Central Israel
The Picador is 6.58 meters long and has a rotor diameter of 7.22 meters.
It will have a MTOW of 720 kgs and will carry a 180 kgs payload.
The unmanned helicopter will have an endurance of approximately 7 hours and a max speed of 110 kts.
It will have an operational range of 200 kms and a ceiling of 12,000 feet.


Soltam Systems is a well-established producer of artillery and ammunition. The company develops and manufactures Artillery Systems, Mortar Systems, ammunition and peripheral equipment that have been battle-proven around the globe.
Soltam Systems supplies armed forces in almost 60 countries. Among the company’s major customers are the United States Army, NATO countries and the Israel Defense Forces. By planning and designing products in close cooperation with its customers, the company says its solutions meet the most modern battlefield requirement.
Soltam Systems designs and manufactures a wide range of mortars and mortar ammunition ranging from 60, 81 to 120mm. The company offers its mortar systems with all auxiliary equipment necessary for field operation, including fire control computers, laying systems, INS and target acquisition systems.
The CARDOM, a 120mm autonomous self-propelled recoiling mortar mounted on a tracked or wheeled vehicle offers significant advantages in fast deployment, accuracy, tactical mobility flexibility and survivability. The CARDOM provides the infantry commander a unique pocket artillery capability. Currently there are over 600 battle proven systems in service, and it is the only US type classified weapon of its kind.
Soltam Systems also offers a variety of artillery pieces for self propelled truck mounted, independently propelled by an auxiliary power rather than towed – in a variety of calibers.
Upgrading and modernizing existing artillery is one of the main fields of activity, in which Soltam specializes. Soltam Systems has the know-how and expertise in upgrading artillery systems, such as United States made M114, Russian made 122mm, 130mm and 152mm – to name but a few.
There are dozens of other defence companies in Israel. They either make their own products or act as sub contractors to the majors – sometimes both. One thing is clear- the consolidation that changed the structure of the defence industry in Europe and the United States has failed to flow through to Israel. All the so-called efforts to begin a similar process in Israel failed. For many years, the Government has not made any real moves to consolidate the state owned defence entities, let alone those with the public shareholders.
In only a handful of cases cooperation was achieved between defence industries – but this on focused issues. One example mentioned above is Gnius that develops unmanned ground vehicles. A more recent one is Tor, a joint venture between Elbit systems and Israel aerospace industries (IAI). This was formed to purchase and operate the advanced trainer to be selected soon by the Israeli airforce (IAF). The contenders are the South Korean KAI T-50 and the Italian Aermacchi M-346. The joint venture will purchase the selected aircraft, perform the final assembly in Israel and then will sell flight hours to the IAF.
But the consolidation of the defence industries is still far from becoming a fact. A recent decision of the Government to merge IMI and Rafael is nothing but a piece of paper and no one is holding their breath.
Israeli defence companies will continue to develop weapon systems that in many cases are ahead of anything else in the world, but this in an environment that sometimes makes the operation very complicated commercially and not because lack of technology and know-how.







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