Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has once again come to the Singapore Airshow to display a diverse selection of its products. Despite the economic turndown, the group has maintained a strong financial position through the focused application of its technological capabilities, and a healthy research and development effort across its portfolio.
The IAI management team has outlined a number of engines to continue its growth. One of them is to continue to expand in the commercial aviation sector to offset the cuts in defense budgets around the world. For IAI (Booth P39), those cuts have increased the amount and aggressiveness of the competitors they face in the market, while the weakening dollar/shekel exchange rate has bitten into profits.
However, as president and CEO Joseph Weiss explained to AIN, “IAI is active both in the defense market and the commercial aviation market. Due to this duality, IAI’s sensitivity to such economic crises in defense is lessened.” The company is also looking for mergers and acquisitions to help it grow, in both commercial and defense sectors.
A key engine for growth is the unmanned aerial vehicle sector, for which IAI is a true pioneer. The company’s products have now notched up more than 1.2 million flight hours and serve with many nations around the globe. Here in Singapore this week the company is unveiling its latest vehicle, the Super Heron, an enhanced version of the combat-proven Heron 1.
IAI continues to focus primarily on the larger end of the UAV marketplace. “While the use of small UAVs is growing rapidly, most of our UAV business volume will continue to be in larger systems,” stated Weiss. “We will continue to evolve our systems, offering the highest performance of airframes, sensors and systems.”
In terms of operational employment, Weiss noted, “We are witnessing a trend of increasing interest for UAV use in civil and emergency missions and expect UAV integration to spread more and more in the future. Looking ahead, IAI plans to continue leading the UAV world for decades to come.”
Another important growth area for IAI is its Elta radar business, which is well represented in the company’s displays here in Singapore. “Radar-based systems are and will remain key in addressing basic operational needs for high-accuracy, long-range, day/night and all-weather ISR,” explained Weiss. “Radar technology is also at the core of our integrated solutions for air, ground, naval and space Imint, surveillance and reconnaissance, target acquisition, early warning and fire control systems. The technology also allows us to offer sophisticated special-mission aircraft.”
Other important sectors for IAI are missiles, in which the company develops anti-air and precision attack weapons, and space. IAI is justifiably proud of its achievements in this arena, which have positioned it as a leading provider of space capabilities. A recent achievement was the launch in August last year of the Amos4 communications satellite, with Amos6 now under construction for deployment next year. A new generation of reconnaissance satellites, based on the Opsat 3000 platform, is under development for both domestic and foreign customers.
IAI also remains in the military aircraft market, and has become a specialist in upgrades. One aircraft that has been brought back to the marketplace is the company’s Kfir, an adaptation of the Mirage III design. Known as Kfir Block 60, a zero-lifed version of the proven fighter with advanced avionics including AESA radar has been developed, with the aim of sales to air arms in Latin America, the Far East, Africa and eastern Europe. IAI is promoting the aircraft to customers who wish to acquire the kind of precision offered by fourth-generation jets, but cannot afford them.
“The Kfir that we’re supplying today has state-of-the-art computers developed just in the past two years, which enable better performance,” reported Weiss. “Thanks to our innovative, up-to-date avionics, an Israeli pilot who flew the Kfir in the 1980s wouldn’t be able to do much with it today. It’s simply a different aircraft.”
IAI remains fully engaged with the Israel Defense Force as its primary domestic customer. Weiss noted, “Despite the fact that Israel accounts for only 20 percent of our business and will diminish even more in the coming years, it remains by far the most important market. To increase exports we are working on a number of strategies, but it definitely helps that our customers and partners know that our capabilities and operational concepts are combat-proven by the IDF or are being developed for our forces. It gives us a clear advantage.”