The Paris Air Show at Le Bourget, considered the world's most important defense exhibit, opened yesterday afternoon. This is the prestigious aerospace show's 50th year, and this year it takes place against a background of deep cuts in defense equipment budgets by many countries, which will have a substantial effect on procurement of systems from defense companies.
A sign of the general belt-tightening is the fact that many of the hundreds of companies that exhibit their wares at the show have reduced their presence this year to save costs.
Such cuts were also made in the delegations of some of the Israeli companies. In contrast to previous shows, the Ministry of Defense itself and the Israel Export Institute decided not to have stands. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has chosen to reduce the number of systems on display, in order to save transport costs. Among items left behind in Israel are IAI's G-550 advanced CAEW (compact airborne early warning) aircraft, and some of its drones.
Those attending the show yesterday were greeted by stormy weather and torrential rain, which made many of the salespeople of the defense companies irritable and uncomfortable, and delayed the display of the various items on the concourse.
Besides the heads of the Israeli companies, Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon and Minister of Science and Technology Yaakov Perry came to the show at Le Bourget, among other things in order to inaugurate the stand set up by the Ministry of Defense defense exports division.
Fourteen Israeli companies are participating at this year's show, foremost among them the leading aerospace companies: Elbit Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT), Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., and IAI. Some 2,200 companies from 45 countries will, over the coming days, exhibit aircraft, missiles, and developments and innovations in these fields, in an exhibition area spread over nearly 200,000 square meters. About 350,000 people are expected to attend, many of them procurement officers from militaries and security organizations all over the world.
Before the show opened, the Ministry of Defense and the Israel Export Institute said that, in the Israeli exhibit, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones) and associated systems would be the focus. In addition, Rafael's Iron Dome and Magic Wand rocket interception systems are expected to attract the attention of many of the delegations to the show.
Rafael is represented at the show by its new chairman Izhak Gat and its CEO Yedidia Yaari. Rafael's salespeople are also presenting the "Spike" series of tactical missiles that serve infantry forces in a variety of battle secnarios. Rafael is also unveiling a new version of its "Spice" bomb-guidance kit. Spice 250 gives conventional bombs advanced capabilities for precise hits on targets.
Alongside Elbit Systems' well-known developments, such as the Hermes 900 UAV, the company is presenting a variety of special payloads that these aircraft can carry, in accordance with the type of operation assigned to them. Among these is an advanced electronic warfare (EW) payload designed to ensure the UAV's survival in operational flights.
The main consideration that led to development of the system was the high cost of the electronic systems that UAVs carry these days on routine operations. In most cases, the cost approaches that of the aircraft itself, and a need was defined to protect the aircraft with a suite of self-protective systems against ground fire similar to those on manned aircraft.
The company is also unveiling its mini-MUSIC system that protects small aircraft and helicopters against heat-seeking shoulder-fired missiles. This follows Elbit Systems' successful development in recent years of the C-MUSIC system to protect passenger aircraft against shoulder-fired missiles. The new system has successfully undergone a series of trials.
In addition, Elbit is exhibiting an upgrade suite for C-130 military transport aircraft, in use with the Israel Air Force. The upgrade suite combines advanced avionics with substantial improvement in the performance of these long-serving aircraft at low altitudes and in conditions of impaired visibility.
IAI is exhibiting a range of missiles, among them the Barak 8 surface-to-air missile, the LORA ground-to-ground missile, and the Arrow anti-missile missile. Alongside these, IAI is also presenting its "Harop" UAV, which loiters above a target, identifies it, and crashes itself, with its warhead, into it. Before the show, IAI announced new contracts it had recently signed to the tune of $100 million, under which it will supply several foreign customers with intelligence gathering systems, patrol radar, and other systems.
In 2012, Israeli defense companies' exports totaled $7.5 billion, which is similar to the figures for 2009 and 2010, after defense exports dipped in 2011. Israel has some 150 companies in defense and aerospace, employing about 44,000 people altogether.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 18, 2013
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