Israel industry tour Day 3: New weapon systems everywhere!

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. 

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4 Responses to Israel industry tour Day 3: New weapon systems everywhere!

  1. Fred from Canuckistan . . . 24 November, 2009 at 8:35 pm #

    The other reason . . 99% of the people in those firms are or were in the IDF and have combat experience, which provides great clarity when designing new weapons.

  2. Baldy 24 November, 2009 at 8:39 pm #

    The difference is that nearly the entire Israeli population supports their defense infrastructure. They are also very focused individually on the defense problem given the generally hostile neighborhood in which they live.

    Israeli defense workers make products that they themselves might have to use. That is one heck of an incentive.

  3. Airpower 24 November, 2009 at 10:16 pm #

    The difference is that the US taxpayer hands over tens of billions of Dollars for Israel to spend on its mainstream warfighting capabilities, leaving the national treasury to support boutique national developments – many of which are still too expensive for the IDF to acquire in large numbers.

    STAR and Spike. Exclusive? All-new?

    Are you sure?

  4. Solomon 25 November, 2009 at 2:03 am #

    Your fawning over the Israeli weapon’s development effort is unwarranted. They are no longer innovative and consistently price their systems below the price of competitors.

    A good example is the TAVOR 21. While a nice weapon it can easily be seen to have followed the example of the Steyr Aug. Not innovative simply repackaged.

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