I am not the first Flight International journalist to swing across Israel’s aerospace industry. Stewart Penney, a legend among the legions of former Flight defense journos, toured the Holy Land’s arms makers in 2003, and wrote:
“Despite its small size, a population slightly over 6 million and a land area smaller than that of many US states, Israel has been able to develop unique capabilities such as the Arrow, the world’s only operational anti-tactical ballistic missile (ATBM) system.”
To say Israel hits above its weight its grossly unfair. Rafael, for example, is striving to reach the $2 billion annual sales mark, but competes against companies collecting $30 billion every year. Yet, Israeli industry routinely finds the right product for the right market at the right time, with a few exceptions.
My three-day tour has been an incredible experience, thanks largely to my widely connected guide — Flight correspondent Arie Egozie. I’m sure this is not a normal week, but I have been swamped with news of new weapons products. My news articles are still working their way through our publishing process, but I can give you a brief summary.
Israeli companies have exclusively revealed to me the existence of two all-new weapons — Elbit Systems’ STAR laser-guided rocket and Rafael’s Spike non-line-of-sight missile. I have also been informed of advanced negotiations between Israel Aerospace Industries and EADS about launching an Airbus A320 airborne early warning platform. Rafael, meanwhile, has dropped new hints about converting the ground-based Stunner inteceptor into a Python/Derby replacement.
And I’m not even looking for news. I’m supposed to be here reporting on a special report about Israel’s aerospace industry, not that I’m complaining.
I think I have discovered the source of Israeli industry’s seemingly endless flow of new weapnos coming to market. Each of the three major Israeli aerospace companies I visited — Elbit Systems, IAI and Rafael — spend 8-10% of their annual revenue on research and development. Respectable American companies are proud to spend even half of that amount. Maybe that’s a hint.