The Israeli Defence Industries

By Arie Egozi

The problem faced by Israeli defence industries is simple or complicated, depending on the angle of sight. On one hand the Israeli defence budget limits the purchase of locally made systems and on the other, the export market has become very difficult mainly because of budget constraints.
To complicate things further, the competition has grown. Not every country needs state-of-the-art, combat proven, Israeli defence technologies. Many countries settle for less advanced systems that also cost much less.
If these factors are not enough, Israel is under constant threat and needs to keep its capabilities at the highest point.
The 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.
The defence industries are divided into state owned and public or private. The state owned are Israel aerospace industries (IAI), Rafael and Israeli Military Industries (IMI).
All attempts or more accurately ” shows ” to consolidate the state owned businesses have of course not resulted in anything.
In spite of the above, the Israeli defence industries are time after time taking technology to new heights. Most of these achievements are classified but even the public part puts them, in some fields, a generation ahead of similar industries in other counties.

Israel aerospace industries (IAI)
While the product range of IAI is one of the widest in the industry, the largest state owned defence industry is being fine-tuned in order to better compete in the world market.
This company made Israel a member of the exclusive ‘space’ club of countries that are capable of developing and manufacturing launchers and satellites. The company 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 source for Israel’s Amos communication satellites that serve huge areas of the globe.
Israel is now the only country in the world with a fully operational theater defence system. The Arrow-2 protects Israel from ballistic missiles and the Arrow -3 is in development with much improved capabilities.
While the defence side of IAI is very dominant, its civil operation is very extensive but, for many, less well-known. Its Bedek group overhauls many types of aircraft and has become one of the world’s centres for conversions of aircraft from passenger to cargo. The production line of the business jets marketed by Gulfstream is still working at less than full capacity. This market is still struggling to get back to past years’ peaks.
The company’s expertise has enabled it to be very active in the naval arena. IAI develops and produces naval/maritime radars and EO payloads for various platforms such as helicopters, unmanned air 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.
IAI is a world leader in totally integrated unmanned air systems (UAS) solutions with more than 800,000 operational hours of intelligence and targeting missions. The company has developed a full range of UAS from small through medium up to large ones like the Heron -TP which has a wingspan of a Boeing 737. IAI has penetrated the world market for UAS that is growing at a super fast pace. While achievements in the field are very impressive, the market has become very hard to penetrate, France and Germany have been evaluating the Heron-TP but now face an initiative to develop a European system and to buy one in that class from the US.
The Israeli space market has very limited resources so IAI is focusing it’s efforts on the world market. In recent months the company is accelerating its penetration into Brazil.
Sources say that the Brazilian market will have a demand for 10-14
satellites in the next 15 years. Most of them for imaging purposes in the 100-200 kg category.
Recently, the Brazilian authorities have issued an RFP for a high capability communications satellite.
In early April IAI signaled it plans to penetrate the Brazilian defence market by investing in the electronic company IACIT. This local business is working in the Defence, Radar Meteorology and Control, Automation, Communication and Information Technologies segments.
IAI’s subsidiary, ELTA Systems signed a cooperation agreement and, through its subsidiary LARDOSA, signed an agreement of investment with IACIT. This includes transfers of technology to the Brazilian company positioning it to capture a significant part of the Brazil electronic market.
ELTA Systems is a major defense electronics company providing a wide spectrum of systems in the field of Radars, Special Mission Aircraft, ISTAR, Electronic Warfare and Communication.
IAI has a parallel cooperation with aircraft manufacturer Embraer and this may also be part of its current penetration effort into the fast growing Brazilian satellite market.


Israel Military Industries (IMI) is still struggling to keep manufacturing the products that are considered an “Arsenal” for Israeli national defence. The company is state owned which, going forward, limits its potential. The Government’s lack of interest has resulted in a static situation that is bad for the company.
IMI is a weapons system house, specializing in the development and manufacture of offensive and defensive solutions for the modern battlefield, Homeland Security and terror threats. IMI’s state-of-the-art systems for ground, air and naval forces, are based on the extensive experience of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Most of them are combat- proven and have been qualified by the IDF, US Military (Army, Air Force & Navy) and NATO members.
IMI designs, upgrades, produces and integrates full combat solutions as well as professional training and services.
The company manufactures air-to-ground systems like the Delilah and a full line of penetration bombs, tactical air-launched decoys, armour protection suits for helicopters and transport airplanes and the most sophisticated flare and chaff systems.
The company has developed a line of very advanced artillery rockets and the IDF has finally accepted the idea that these can be a good substitute for the air force in close air support to ranges of up to 200 km.
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’s Givon division is developing and manufacturing the boosters for the Israeli Shavit satellite launcher.
The company was not able to be merged or privatized which would have given it economies of scale. It also suffers from the fact that the Ministry of Defence prefers to use the U.S foreign military funds (FMF) granted to Israel each year, for the purchase of basic items like ammunition.


Elbit systems is continuing is effort to become a unique “Multi Domestic” defense company.
Only recently it made another step in this direction by establishing Sharp Elbit Systems Aerospace, Inc. (“SESA”), a jointly owned South Korean company with Sharp Aviation K Inc.
Elbit Systems owns 19%, with a growth option to 50% ownership.
SESA will operate in Ansan and, among other capabilities, will offer maintenance, repair and manufacture of advanced military aircraft avionics as well as research and development of systems and avionics for both existing and future projects such as the Korean Light Attack Helicopter (LAH) and the Korean Future Fighter (KFX) development projects. Contracts currently operated by Sharp Aviation K will be transferred to SESA as part of the transaction.
As a Korean company, SESA will also be able to offer offset solutions to foreign suppliers and OEM’s selling defense goods and services in Korea.
Soon-Suk Paik, President and CEO of Sharp Aviation K said that working with the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) of Korea and international and Korean manufacturers, SESA, will offer the Korean aerospace market advanced solutions and systems made in Korea and based on Elbit Systems’ technological portfolio. Also, Sharp Aviation K’s vast experience in aviation and avionics provides a strong local presence and deep understanding of the Korean market.
Bezhalel (Butzi) Machlis, Elbit Systems’ new president and CEO, said that the establishment of this new company is a significant step for Elbit Systems. ” We consider this country to be a very important market and trust that establishing this jointly owned company will bring new opportunities and be of mutual benefit for both our companies and Korea”. Elbit is making similar efforts in many parts of the world with great success.
Elbit Systems and its subsidiaries, operate in aerospace, land and naval systems, command, control, communications, computers, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (“C4ISR”), unmanned air 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 upgrades existing military platforms, developes new technologies for defense, homeland security and commercial aviation applications and provides 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 pilot helmet was selected for the American Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter.
The company has become a major UAS supplier and was selected to supply it’s Hermes-450 UAV 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 Systems manufacture fire control systems, thermal imaging and laser systems, displays, electrical turret drives, and overhead remote-control unmanned turret weapon systems. Also command, control, communications, computers (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 programme.
Elbit Systems is a world leader in military communications equipment and systems.
The ELOP division of Elbit systems manufactures some of the most advanced electro optical payloads available on the market.
This effort can be summarized by the fact that the first counter measure system that protects airliners from shoulder-launched missiles was installed recently on an EL AL 737.
The Commercial Multi-Spectral Infrared Countermeasure (C-MUSIC) is operated while this aircraft serves various EL AL routes.
The installation on the EL AL aircraft followed a series of successful flight tests onboard a Boeing 707. The system, designed to protect large jet aircraft against shoulder-launched missiles (MANPADS), was proven effective. Successfully performing all of the needed functions.
The threat of MANPADS has grown considerably over the last few years. One reason is that a large amount of these missiles were looted from the Libyan army warehouses after Kaddafi was ousted and killed.


In recent years the name Rafael has been identified with two unique systems that are part of Israel’s multi-layered defence against rockets and ballistic missiles.
The first is Rafael’s “Iron Dome”. This system is designed to intercept short-range rockets and, in the “Pillar of Defense ” operation in the Gaza strip, achieved a 90 % intercept of rockets that were launched into Israel.
“David’s Sling” is the second layer with the Arrow-2, and Arrow-3 the third layer against ballistic missiles. “David’s Sling” is designed to intercept rockets with a range of 70 to 250 km but this capability will increase in the future. The system is also designed to intercept cruise missiles.
The cruise missiles intercept capability has been designed as “threats are changing” according to Israeli sources.
The rocket used by the “David’s Sling” system is dubbed “Stunner”. This has a “Dolphin Head” nose section with a dual seeker capability.
Rafael sources explained that the “Dolphin Head” shape allows the two seekers to function simultaneously with no interference even in “extreme conditions”. The sources said that the dual seeker will ensure high sensitivity under all weather conditions and give immunity to deception and countermeasures.
The 4.60 meter long Stunner, uses a multi-pulse rocket motor.
Rafael has confirmed that it is developing a 6th generation air-to-air missile but was only able to say that it will use different but existing “building blocks”. The technology developed for the “Stunner” will be used in all next generation air-to-air missile.
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 from underwater, naval, land, and air and 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.
One very good example of Rafael’s ability to develop an advanced weapon system is the “Spice” family of smart bombs.
The Israeli airforce (IAF) is equipping its fighter fleet with these new Rafael Spice 250 gliding bombs. Some specifics of that advanced weapon systems have been recently unveiled.
The previous members of the Spice family came in kit form that was attached to 1000 and 2000 pound
bombs. This time the Israeli company is supplying a complete system.
The Rafael Spice 250 can be loaded with 100 optional targets in a given area.
The image-matching sensor of the Spice gives it a CEP of less than 3 meters. The basic Spice is used on MK-84 2000 pound bombs giving a range of over 60 km. This version is operational in IAF and has been used in combat.
The kit has been also adapted to Mk-83 1000 pound bombs giving a 100 + km range. The upgrade effort is also aimed at extending the range even further.
The Spice’s deployable wings allow an aircraft to carry more bombs.
The weapon is navigated by a GPS/INS Satellite/Inertial Navigation system.
According to Rafael, the Spice 250 achieves an extended standoff range of up to 100 kilometers using its deployable wings.
Spice 250 enables impact point update after release using its communication module. In addition, it provides Battle Damage Indication (BDI) capability, by transmitting the target image just before hit.

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



BlueBird is another small but interesting UAS manufacturer. The company specializes in the design, development and production of tactical UAS and peripheral equipment.
BlueBird solutions are specially designed to deal with contemporary homeland security (HLS) challenges. With a wide spectrum of UAS platforms, all operating from a unified, intuitive and user- friendly Ground Control Station, BlueBird’s rapidly deployable UAS, 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 UAV’s, as a critical requirement in modern homeland security and civilian applications, and has presented to the market a spectrum of advanced solutions.

The MicroB, a Micro UAS 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 an extended performance envelope of 4 hours mission time, the ability to fly to 36,000ft and an impressive mission range of 60Km.

The Boomerang – A Mini UAV that provides Tactical UAS capabilities (Day and Night payloads simultaneously) and 10 hours mission time.

At the recent Paris air show, the company unveiled its Thunder B. This UAS is available with gasoline or electric power. The gasoline-powered version offers 24-hr. endurance and has retractable wheeled landing gear.


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 UAS, and 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, Unmanned Aerial 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 a world pioneer 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 developed a range of cooled and uncooled, high performance thermal cameras with continuous zoom lens, providing night, daylight and adverse weather visibility.



Unmanned ground systems are operational along the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip. These were developed by G-NIUS Unmanned Ground Systems (UGS) owned jointly by IAI and Elbit Systems .
This joint company is developing a variety of unmanned ground system solutions that are all based on a common, versatile and layered avionics suite.
Other systems are still in the development phase with interest shown from many armed services in the world.
The pace of introducing UGS into armies and other defence organizations is slower than expected but the company says that there is a shift in the market and that will bring increased potential.


RADA is a recognized world leader in the field of airborne video and data
recording. The company’s INS solutions, based on Fiber Optic Gyros (FOG) or Micro-Electro Mechanical Sensors (MEMS), are integrated into 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 suites
for military and Special Mission aircraft, as well as in video and data
recording and management systems.


Israel Weapon industries (IWI) was founded on the remnants of their small arms division that was sold a few years ago.
IWI’s products include the family of TAVOR Assault rifles and the Negev light machine gun (LMG) .
The TAVOR Assault Rifle is the most modern weapon, technologically-wise. Among its advantages is that it is a long barreled rifle but compact due to its bull pup configuration. The weapon includes an integral reflex sight to enhance its precision. In addition, a night or day telescope can be easily fitted with no need for zeroing.

The Negev LMG 5.56mm is a lightweight configuration Machine Gun with semi automatic or automatic mode capability allowing maximum firepower for an infantry combat platoon.
The company tries to answer the demands of the market. One example is the ACE 7.62 assault rifle.
IWI knows that some armies want new, advanced assault rifles but often are reluctant to change the ammunition. This is the reason for the development of an ACE version of its assault rifle using 7.62 ammunition
The ACE family of assault rifles is based upon the reliable mechanism of the famous GALIL. The ACE incorporates enhanced human engineering and ergonomics in keeping with the demands of the modern battlefield.
The ACE family of assault rifles offer the ultimate solutions for modern warfare requirements of high accuracy and reliability. The ACE assault rifle is battle proven under the most extreme conditions worldwide.
The ACE 31 and the ACE 32 assault rifles use standard 7.62x39mm ammunition. This according to the company offers the ultimate solution for many military forces around the world intending to replace their weapons with a modern and innovate one, but do not wishing to change their ammunition.


Aeronautics is another unmanned air systems (UAS) manufacturer with some very unique products. The company won a contract to supply its Orbiter 2 to Finland and deliveries are underway.
Last year the Finnish Ministry of Defence selected the Aeronautics Defence Systems Orbiter 2 UAS for its operational needs.
The contract includes 52 mini UAS systems each comprising a ground station and four air platforms.
The orbiter-2 has a 1 meter long fuselage and a wing span of 3 meters. It has 3.5 hours endurance with a 10 kg. maximum takeoff weight.
According to Dany Eshchar, Aeronautics Deputy CEO for Marketing and Sales, 20 systems will be supplied by year’s end.
The company official revealed that Finland is showing interest in the larger Orbiter 3 version which has an endurance of 7-8 hours. It is currently equipped with a 3 kg. payload but soon will be replaced by a more advanced one. This cooled IR payload will produce better quality images.
The Orbiter 3 is launched from a catapult and recovered vertically by opening a parachute and airbag. The Orbiter 3 can perform any ISTAR mission, including target designation.
The company has recently resumed the marketing of its Dominator XP unmanned air system (UAS) and is now offering the platform with a variety of systems and sensors.
After a financial crisis followed by restructuring, the Israeli company has resumed its export efforts.
Aeronautics says that the Dominator XP has great potential because it is a big platform with two engines, based on the Diamond DA-42 twin-engine aircraft.
The Dominator XP can achieve an endurance of 28 hours and is capable of carrying a 300 kg. payload with a maximum takeoff weight of 2000 kg.
Maximum altitude is 30,000 feet and maximum speed is 190 knots. The Dominator is aimed at the high end of the MALE UAS market.
A Dominator XP is operated by CAE in Alma, Quebec under Project Miskam, which means “to find” in Innu.
CAE and Aeronautics are demonstrating how unmanned systems can be used for commercial applications such as remote inspection of pipelines and hydroelectric installations, surveillance of forest fires, observation of critical natural resources, assessing natural disasters and a range of other applications combined with a diverse array of sensors suitable for civil, homeland security and defence-related market requirements.
CAE performs a wide range of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) services.

Urban Aeronautics


The Urban Aeronautics AirMule ducted fan VTOL aircraft is being tested with new propellers designed and manufactured by the Israeli company.
Urban Aeronautics manufactured 12 composite blades for the two
six bladed rotors now installed on the aircraft. These have replaced the four bladed rotors used since the beginning of 2010.
Dr. Rafi Yoeli, president of Urban Aeronautics said that the test flights with the new blades performed so far proved that they extended the performance envelop of the AirMule.
In a parallel effort Urban Aeronautics is accelerating the assembly of a second AirMule prototype in preparation for a series of demonstration flights requested by potential customers.
The ducted fan platform is aimed at performing MedEvac missions in combat as well as resupply missions. The ducted fan design will allow the AirMule to rescue people from high-rise buildings by flying close to windows. This will be possible because the ducted fan leaves the platform “clean” unlike a helicopter that has a rotor limiting its access to a building.


UVision has recently released first details of the latest versions of its HERO-30 expendable reconnaissance UAS , and the HERO-400 Loitering Attack Munition.
The Hero-30 (formerly designated ‘Wasp’) is a small (3kg.) expendable unmanned reconnaissance vehicle supporting small tactical units and Special Forces. Hero-30 is a zero-maintenance personal reconnaissance asset, launched from a small canister and electrically powered, resulting in a minimal tactical footprint and extreme ease of deployment on the battlefield.
According to the Israeli company, it provides a full half-hour of mission time to accommodate the needs of front line units engaged in combat and potentially under fire.
The Hero-400 (formerly designated ‘Blade Arrow’) is a medium-size (40 kg) loitering munition powered by a gasoline engine. The payload comprises an advanced electro-optical day/night imaging sensor and an 8 kg. warhead. Hero-400 can loiter for four hours, and engage fixed or moving high-value targets. Supporting missions at ranges of up to 150km, Hero-400 provides the tactical commander an affordable, quick-reaction precision strike capability.

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