Joseph Ackerman is president of Elbit Systems. He talks to Flightglobal about product development, industry consolidation in Israel and the company's aspirations to grow its presence in civil aerostructures and avionics

What is in the focus of your display this year at the show?

We are introducing the company's unique multi-layered wide area aerial persistent surveillance (WAAPS) solution, demonstrating a capability that enables headquarters and combat forces to remotely dominate a defined area using various systems and sensors that are seamlessly integrated.

Elbit Systems is a world leader in the field of command and control. Adding this significant asset to our vast operational experience in the wide array of fields in which we are involved - ranging from unmanned air systems, through advanced avionic systems for fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, to advanced surveillance systems and ground electronic warfare systems - it became clear that Elbit has all of the capabilities required for multi-layered wide area aerial persistent surveillance.

Yossi Ackerman
 © Elbit Systems

As in every exhibition, the multimedia presentation is designed by a team of experts from various divisions in the company, demonstrating a range of disciplines and extensive operational experience. This unique team created the scenarios that offer the viewers a sense of being part of a real operational mission. We will also introduce advanced capabilities and systems, and we will debut, for the first time, a 1:1 scale model of the C-Music multi-spectral infrared fiber-laser based directed infrared countermeasures system for the protection of large jet aircraft against shoulder-launched missiles.

This system was selected by the Israeli government to protect Israeli commercial aircraft fleets. We expect this system to attract a great deal of attention thanks to our unique solution, which is considered the most advanced of its kind in the world. We will present additional solutions within our wide range of activities, including advanced helmet mounted displays, glass cockpits, various sensors, electronic warfare solutions and more.

What will Elbit's main growth engines be in the coming years?

We have several acknowledged growth engines. These include, among others, unmanned aircraft systems and advanced robotics; command, control, communications, computers, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR); electronic warfare; advanced electro-optical systems; and additional next-generation ground and aerial systems. All of these growth engines continue to be relevant and underscore our ability to predict the battlefield's future needs and to meet our customers' requirements thanks to the capabilities and technologies we have developed.

Having identified shifts in budgetary preferences among our customers and with the aim of remaining relevant, we have also focused on the field of logistics support and services, an area in which we have identified a strong market demand, in Israel and around the world. We are experienced with many projects in Israel, such as maintenance for the Israel police helicopter fleet, operating the Israeli air force's flight academy, operating a flight simulator for the air force and more.

We found that outsourcing of logistics support and services is the preferred approach of many significant customers worldwide, who understand the advantages - to both reduce costs and gain operational professionalism - to have such projects performed by an experienced and professional company that provides better and more "cost efficient" quality of service.

We have recently established the first firefighting squadron in Israel, operated by the air force. In addition, we have recently established a joint company with Israel Aerospace Industries, aiming to acquire and maintain advanced training aircraft for the air force. Intelligence is another field in which we wish to expand our presence, already having in the company key elements in this area, ranging from Elisra's capabilities, through our airborne reconnaissance systems for aircraft and UAS, satellite communications and other capabilities.

You define the company as "glocal" (global and local). Are there plans to pursue more acquisitions or joint ventures in the near future?

For many years, Elbit Systems has maintained a policy of acquiring companies with complementary technologies and/or companies that provide access to important markets. We have consistently operated in accordance with this long-term policy, and when looking back, it is evident that we kept this in mind in all of our recent acquisitions. In Israel, over the years we have acquired many companies with high synergetic values - from Elop to Elisra and Tadiran Communications, to Cyclone, BVR, Kinetics, Soltam, Shiron Satellite Communications, Azimuth Technologies and more.

We do not limit the application of this policy to Israel alone, and have also pursued this approach in every country that we have defined as an important target market. For example, we acquired M7 in the USA this year, adding important capabilities of logistic support and maintenance to our operations there. In addition, we acquired two companies in Brazil and a company in the UK, enabling us to increase the range of activities in those markets as well. Our acquisitions primary goal was not to create volume, but rather to enable us to become better acquainted with our customers and their needs, to provide an immediate response to those needs and to appropriately co-operate with the local defence industries. Past experience demonstrates that we have succeeded with this approach and we will continue to follow it and seek additional companies for joint ventures and acquisitions around the world.

The Israeli defence industry is not consolidated. Is that a permanent situation or are there signs of change?

Unfortunately, there are several defence industries in Israel that are still owned by the government, and we believe that the Israeli government should privatise them, as was the case in the majority of countries in the developed world.

The governmental defence industries are immense industries, with technological and business achievements, but it is only if they are privatised that they will be able to fully and successfully compete in the future. To my great dismay, we do not see any positive shifts toward the privatisation of the defence industries in Israel, but rather vice versa, we see a planned merger between two governmental companies (subordinating Israel Military Industries to Rafael). Our position, in favour of privatisation, is well known to the government, and I hope that it will indeed occur in the future, strengthening the industries in the long term for the benefit of the employees and the local defence market.

With your capabilities in airframes are you planning participation in civil aircraft programmes?

Elbit is active in civil aviation. We are capable of creating aerostructures, and we are involved in several projects for leading civil aviation manufacturers, both in Cyclone in Israel and M7 in the USA.

In the field of advanced electronics for civil aviation, we are working on various interesting developments relying on our military avionic capabilities. Several examples that can already be seen are the fiber-laser based DIRCM system C-Music, which is the most advanced system of its kind in the world and for which we were awarded a programme by the Israeli government, the enhanced vision system that allows pilots to land in low visibility weather conditions - a system that was sold in large quantities, and other systems that are still under development.

We believe we are capable of providing the commercial aviation market with more groundbreaking systems, answering the increasing demand for flight efficiency and safety.

Source: Flight Daily News