SINGAPORE: INTERVIEW: Rafael CEO Yedidia Yaari

Tel Aviv
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Vice Adm (Ret) Yedidia Yaari is Rafael Advanced Defense Systems' president and CEO. He joined the Israeli defence contractor in December 2004 after retiring as commander-in-chief of the Israeli navy, a position he held since 2000. He rose rapidly through the naval ranks after being recruited to the Israel Defense Forces in 1965, and held various positions, including Head of Naval Intelligence Command.

Q: Israeli defence companies have identified Asia as a market with strong growth potential. Some have established joint ventures in this part of the world. Do you have plans to go in the same direction?

A: Today’s defence markets are shifting from buying complete systems from foreign suppliers to locally producing such systems – a trend requiring efficient capability to transfer manufacturing technologies, know-how and monitor quality assurance, and all that under complex offset rules that require significant flexibility and resilience to maintain a profitable operation. At Rafael, we maintain co-operation with over 100 international companies that gain significant added value from such co-operation.

We understand the growing need for increased co-operation and partnership with global clients, and for maintaining knowledge transfer and adaptation of existing solutions to the specific needs of the user. As such, Rafael is constantly seeking new partnerships and joint ventures with Indian companies for co-operation that will help drive forward our mutual ability to address local needs and operational requirements, as well as offset requirements. We are engaged in joint ventures and partnerships with local Indian industries and are in a constant search to expand our activities in the country, in co-operation with the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), in order to better address local needs and requirements.

Q: Is the fact that you are state owned a hurdle in such a process?

A: As a state-owned company we are subject to different regulations under the ministries of defence and finance. Like other defence companies in Israel, even ones that are privately-owned, we are also subject to regulations of the exports inspection department in the defence ministry. We operate in full compliance with these regulations and enjoy excellent co-operation from these regulatory bodies, as well as from their activities in different countries around the world, including India, to promote our technologies and business. We have been very successful over the years at performing our function as Israel's national laboratory with our goal of being a growing, global company, as well as a team player, as I have outlined in the previous answer.

Q: There have been efforts to put some of Rafael's systems on Indian platforms like the Tejas and the new fighter selected by the Indian air force. Has this effort resulted in contracts?

A: Rafael specialises in the development, manufacturing and support of a vast range of aerospace systems and technologies, including missiles and weapons, electronic warfare and self protection, reconnaissance and intelligence collection, as well as processing systems, analysis, and dissemination tools, airborne data links, communications, command and control, and much more. Rafael's systems are in use by many air forces around the world on dozens of different platforms, and they have proven successful in a large variety of missions around the world. These include our Litening and Reccelite pods for aerial navigation, attack and surveillance, the Python-5 and Derby short- and medium-range air-to-air missiles, the DLV-53 for wideband data-link communication and more.

Q: How is the special offset office that was opened by Rafael in India helping your marketing efforts in this large market?

A: We have been successfully conducting offset activities for many years. Our activities in Poland, for example, where we have opened a plant for the manufacturing of our Spike missiles, serves as an indication of how we have adapted and combined our needs and goals with those of the Polish market and the operational needs of the Polish military.

Israel and Rafael consider our relationship and co-operation with India as strategic. We are constantly looking for new ways to expand our co-operation and joint ventures with the local Indian industry, as well as with the DRDO. Such co-operation will ensure or mutual success in the development and production of leading technologies that will best serve both countries well into the future. Currently, there are over 100 such partnerships, and they are part of our broad international offset activities around the world, which we hope will similarly come into play in India as well with the assistance of our newly-established offset office there.

Q: Some countries in Asia have the need to protect themselves from ballistic threats. Rafael has developed the combat-proven Iron Dome interceptor. Is a contract in the region close with South Korea as a leading potential customer?

A: Rafael offers a full range of air defence systems to ensure efficient responses against all types of airborne threats, including aircraft, helicopters, short- to long-range missiles and rockets. Rafael air defence solutions meet the requirements of the army, air force and navy. The systems can be integrated, co-ordinated and operated by tri-forces to provide comprehensive interoperability and interchangeability.

One of Rafael's flagship products, which has received worldwide recognition and praise is Iron Dome, an active defence system against short-range missiles and rockets. Since its first deployment in Israel in 2011, the system has already intercepted over 500 rockets and is deployed in key locations around the country. The system is highly mobile, and is thus easily deployable to protect critical infrastructure sites, civilian areas, and military installations and bases. It is another key element in increasing force survivability as well as manoeuvrability.

Q: Your Litening targeting pod has become a benchmark for this type of system. Have you managed to sell it to Asian customers?

A: Rafael's Litening is indeed one of the company's prime growth engines, with some 1,200 pods that have been sold to customers around the world, with over 1.2 million flight hours.

Litening precision targeting and long-range ISR capabilities make it the most widely used targeting pod today, integrated on 20 types of aircraft, including the F-16, F-18, F-5E, A-10, B-52, Jaguar, AMX-1, Mirage 2000, Tornado, MiG-21, MiG-27, JAS 39 Gripen, and Sukhoi Su-30. The pods are in use by more than 20 air forces, among them the US Air Force, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and US Marines, the Royal Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, Royal Netherlands Air Force, as well as the Israeli, Swedish, German, Greek, Chilean, Portuguese and Spanish air forces.

The Litening is in use by a number of customers in Asia and we hope to see it in other countries as well.

Q: Is India still the primary potential customer in Asia for this system?

A: India remains a strategic market for Israel's defense industry and for Rafael in a variety of areas. Our activities are geared towards expanding our portfolio there, through our partnerships and co-operation locally and transfer of knowledge and production.

Q: In general, what are Rafael's main growth engines in the coming years?

A: Rafael's solutions have been instrumental in combat performance around the world, serving the USA, NATO, and European, Asian, Australian and other forces. These include our vehicle armour, which has saved thousands of lives in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, our Spike missiles, which have been sold to more than 20 countries, having delivered more than 21,000 missiles and fired more than 3,000 in tests and in combat. Rafael's airborne Litening navigation and attack pod has had remarkable success with a number of air forces who have noted its central role in peace-keeping and combat missions over the skies of Afghanistan and Libya. Rafael is one of the leading air-to-air and missile defense system houses in the world. Its combat-proven aerial missiles include the Python-5 and Derby missiles, considered today the most advanced air-to-air missiles. These missiles have an air defence application – Spyder – which provides excellent protection of valuable assets, as well as first-class defence for forces located in the combat area. Spyder missiles have full commonality with the air-to-air missile version.

Rafael specialises in current and future land systems. In addition to the traditional battlefield, Rafael's combat-proven land systems are optimal for the ever-growing arena of urban warfare.

Each system fulfils a unique role in ensuring swift and accurate results, with minimal collateral damage and maximum effectiveness. Together, they provide land forces with the necessary fire-power, lethality, survivability and manoeuvrability.

These include the Samson RWS Family of remote weapon stations, the Trophy Active Protection System for armoured vehicles, already combat-proven and integrated on Merkave-4 tanks, and more.

Q: With the growing use of unmanned air systems (UAS) around the world including Asia, are you considering adapting some of your aerial systems for use on these smaller platforms?

A: Rafael has positioned itself as a provider of end-to-end solutions that address the growing needs of its users for integration of unmanned air systems in a variety of missions. Today's battlefield relies heavily on net-centric warfare, in which missions and targets are time-sensitive and require fast reaction and reliable communication and information transfer between forces on land, in the air and at sea.

Rafael's Recce-U, a real-time ISR system for UAVs, is the smaller derivative of our Reccelite surveillance pod. Already installed on a number of UAVs, it is part of our comprehensive suite, aimed at providing forces with "loop-closing" ability, by means of detection, tracking and identification of targets in missions of maritime security, counter-terror and more.

Rafael's new development in the area of radio communication is BNET – a software-defined radio which has uniquely high-spectrum efficiency, as well as cognitive capabilities, and it offers exceptional connectivity, thereby enhancing the simultaneous exchange of information and communication of data and video from UAVs.

In addition, Rafael's DLV-53 for Wideband Data Link ISTAR applications fits into tactical and high-end UAV platforms and it offers the UAV a communication suite that includes line-of-sight (LOS), LOS-relay, satellite terminal and close air support with air traffic control in one.

The data received from any given array of ground and air sensors is processed by Rafael's ImiLite situational awareness and image exploitation system, which keeps all security elements – from military personnel on the ground to UAVs in the air – connected, informed and synchronised in real time.

Q: It was reported that Rafael is engaged in developing a sixth-generation air-air missile. Will this missile be among the weapons systems that the Israeli air force plans to deploy on its F-35s ?

A: We are constantly looking to the future to assess needs and requirements. In line with that, we are developing our air defence and air-to-air systems, including the future sixth-generation air-to-air-missile that will be suitable for different platforms, including the JSF. We have already completed our evaluations and are working on its design, such that it will fit inside the F-35 bay, and have better manoeuvrability and longer range.