Comprehensive and Cost-Effective Defense
Israel has developed a defense industry with comprehensive capabilities in ground, air and sea combat. Spurred on by the fear of arms embargoes, the initial aim was self sufficiency so that local companies could supply everything from ammunition to fighter aircraft and communications systems to tanks.
Israel’s defense industries succeeded beyond all expectations. Government-owned and private companies were able to develop some of the most advanced, innovative and sophisticated defense industries in the world. Under pressure to maintain a qualitative advantage, Israel linked high-tech systems to the traditional engineering skills needed to produce defense equipment. This enabled local defense industries to develop an arsenal, which includes the full spectrum of comprehensive military platforms from aerospace, radar and electronic warfare systems and components to smart missiles, communications networks, search and rescue systems and simulators. The austerity of the early years of the state meant that many of the solutions devised were cost-effective without compromising on quality.
Initially virtually all Israeli-made military equipment was acquired by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). But the stunning military successes of the IDF drew the attention of customers on every continent to the battle-proven advantages, state-of-the-art technological superiority and excellent value of many Israeli-made items. Moreover, in recent years products and systems have been developed and adapted which confront terrorism rather than conventional warfare threats. Today more than 70% of defense industry products are exported.
Overseas sales not with standing in any case, the IDF and the country’s other security and law-enforcement agencies, remain the number one customer for the local defense industry. This has several advantages. Firstly Israeli products are usually battle-tested and adapted and improved according to real-time feedback from results in the field. Secondly there is a symbiotic relationship between the IDF and senior defense-industry employees, most of whom are former officers and many continue to serve in the reserves. Indeed the quality of Israel’s human resources is the essence of the country’s defense industries success with most engineers, scientists and project managers being graduates of leading local universities as well as elite IDF units.
Products were initially developed to comprehensively equip the IDF for war and meet the existential threat to the country. But down the years new needs have arisen. Combating terrorism has long been a priority as well as riot control and other forms of law enforcement when confronted by mass violent protests and more sophisticated criminal activity. State-of-the-art fencing, security and access control systems, protective armor and in the wake of 9/11 civil aviation protection systems are among products developed to meet these challenges.
Another development over time has been the ending of Israel’s international isolation. While self sufficiency remains an important concept spiraling R&D and marketing costs make international cooperation, in particular with the United States, a vital priority. The Arrow anti-missile system and the upgrading of the F-16 fighter aircraft and Cobra attack helicopter are excellent examples of such strategic cooperation.
Ability to Upgrade
Israel’s extensive battlefield experience means that it can also offer expertise in both Western and Eastern military equipment. In particular, to serve budget conscious government worldwide, Israel has become a global leader in the aircraft and tank upgrade sector. Local companies have the ability to transform current ground and air platforms into more powerful systems, which have improved performance, a longer life cycle, and more efficient capabilities.
Israeli companies have developed custom-tailored upgrade programs for a broad array of fixed wing and rotor aircraft and helicopters as well as many other aircraft operated by both the Israeli and overseas air forces. Israeli firms are also familiar with Soviet and Russian weaponry, both from equipment captured during previous wars, and in more recent years through cooperation with countries of the Former Soviet Union and the arrival of a million Russian-speaking immigrants. Israeli companies can upgrade the MIG 21 aircraft and on the ground programs are available to renew and modify Soviet tanks like the T-55. Israeli armor upgrade programs include the T-72, T-72M1, T-80 and M60 tanks.
Other areas of Israeli expertise which have developed over the years include intelligence gathering systems including unmanned aircraft (UAVs) and observation equipment, which provide precise and real-time data. Simulation equipment has been devised to maintain a high level of real-time quality training while saving on ammunition, fuel and other expenses and reducing risks.
From Public to Private Enterprise
Israel’s defense industries were established by the government and today a number of large nationally owned business corporations continue to lead this sector. Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) has developed the country’s independent space launch satellite capability, the aforementioned aircraft upgrading programs, advanced radar systems, unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and has delivered the initial Arrow system (the world’s first ever anti-tactical ballistic missile system) to the IDF.
IAI operates through the BEDEK Aviation Group which provides total aircraft engine and component repair, overhault, retrofit, modification and conversion services. The Ramta Division designs and produces fighting and support vehicles,minefield breaching equipment, fast patrol boats, unmanned ground vehicles and composite aircraft structures. IAI’s ELTA Systems Group has full capabilities in radar, EW, communications and IT, while the Systems, Missiles and Space Group develops and produces a wide range of advanced weapons systems, space and IT. This Group includes the MLM Division which has developed the Arrow, SHAVIT launch vehicle, and OFEQ satellites and and the TAMAM Division which provides integrating solutions for helicopters, land forces and space applications.The Lahav Division of the Military Aircraft Group offers comprehensive in-house capabilities for miltary aircraft upgrading
Israel Military Industries (IMI) has developed a diverse array of products including heavy ammunition, small arms, armored fighting vehicles, advanced anti-tanks systems and rocket launchers. IMI’s subsidiary Ashot Ashkelon specializes in “build to print” and “build to spec” gear-based products for aerospace and defense vehicles and equipment.
RAFAEL Armament Development Authority, initially the Ministry of Defense’s R&D arm, which develops and manufactures advanced combat systems. Among the optical guided missiles, electro-optical, electronic warfare and C4I systems made by RAFAEL are the Python 5, 4 and Derby air-to-air missile, the Popeye and Spice air-to-ground missiles and the Barak surface-to-air missile.
In the private sector Elbit Systems is a world leader in large-scale platform upgrade programs and multidisciplinary integration of advanced electronics and weapon systems for airborne, naval and ground applications. Elbit’s subsidiary El-Op Electro-Optic industries whose complementary products encompass space and airborne reconnaissance, thermal imaging, lasers, displays, fire control systems, optronic stabilized payloads and electro-optic countermeasures.
The Elisra Group incorporates Elisra Electronic Systems, a major supplier and integrator of electronic warfare systems, Tadiran Electronic Systems, renowned for state-of-the-art solutions in Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence, Tadiran Spectralink, a highly specialized producer of advanced wireless communications systems and BVR Systems (1998) which manufactures off-the-shelf simulation and training systems for the defense market.
Also in the field of wireless communications Tadiran Communications is a global leader in tactical communications products including RF power devices and wideband wireless communications.
Among dozens of smaller privately-owned companies in the defense sector many are Soltam Systems, an artillery systems integrator whose products include artillery gun systems, mortars, mortar ammunition, and other peripheral equipment. International Technologies (Lasers) Ltd. (ITL), an electro-optics company, develops and manufactures a wide range of advanced and innovative products and systems designed to enhance night fighting capabilities as well as to provide day time electro-optical solutions. Also in the field of night vision MEPROLIGHT designs, develops and produces tritium illuminated products for the civilian, military and law enforcement communities. The company is the global leader in the field of tritium night sights, having supplied over 2 million sets of illuminated sights worldwide.
Azimuth has developed targeting and navigation systems, Hydromechanical Engineering has designed test equipment and hydraulic systems for military applications and Kinetics develops systems for armored fighting vehicles. Magam Betihut produces twin chamber life jackets, fire-resistant trousers and brake parachute assemblies while Achidatex Nazareth Elite has developed dry storage systems for vehicles, tanks, artillery and aircraft.
In fact Israel’s worldwide reputation for high-tech innovation in such fields as electronics, software, medical equipment and communications was initially based on military applications adapted for civilian use. Now the country has such an intense concentration of advanced technology expertise that the military and commercial sectors complement each other to generate leading edge products and technologies for diverse applications.
Homeland Security Catalog of Israeli Companies