Israeli defense electronics and weapons specialist Rafael (Stand N53) celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. It was created to perform research and development in support of Israel’s defense, and that mission remains central to the company’s activities today.
For seven decades Rafael has developed weapons and systems that build on layers of technology, adding new layers to create new capabilities. Investing heavily in R&D and human capital, Rafael aims to create products and technology that are truly innovative, rather than matching existing technologies from other companies.
Now the company is leveraging developments in what has been called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, namely artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data, to improve defense-related products and systems. In order to harness this latest in technology for defense purposes, Rafael has established a number of facilities outside of the company that work with academia and collaborate with commercial entities.
These efforts have already borne fruit in a number of products. An example is the MANET (mobile ad hoc network) communications system, which works across air, sea, and land domains. Utilizing software-defined radios the MANET is a self-forming network that requires no infrastructure, the network being created through the connectivity between the radios themselves. The network is self-healing, reconfiguring itself if a node is lost, and offers beyond line of sight capability by using nodes within the system to multi-hop transmissions.
Another example is the connection between the company’s latest Litening targeting pod and advanced precision weapons such as Spice, which together use computer vision and AI to detect and autonomously track challenging targets such as moving vehicles.
Separately, a new member has been added to the Litening family in the form of the RecceLite Minipod, a lighter, smaller version of the RecceLite 5 reconnaissance system, itself derived from the Litening. The Minipod has the same optics and processing, but is housed in a shorter pod. It is intended for slow platforms such as UAVs, and does not need many of the systems required for operation in a high-g, high-speed application such as a fighter. Accordingly, the bulky environmental control system can be removed completely, while the datalink can potentially use the carrier platform’s own system.