"Take an imaginary scenario of warfare in northern Israel," said Acting head of Israel Military Industries Ltd. (IMI) Fire Power Division Brigadier General (res.) Eli Reiter. "You deploy a rocket battery that provides accurate firepower with ranges covering both Beirut and Damascus. An urgent operation need arises, and in this case, no more than a few minutes is needed to deliver the desired firepower. The location of the target is fed in, the button is pressed, and the rockets take off, ensuring an accurate hit less than 10 meters from the target. The operator selects the type of rocket to be launched, its range, and the weight of the payload it will deliver. It could be a rocket with a range of several kilometers with a fairly small payload, or it could be a rocket with a range of up to 250 kilometers with a large and deadlier warhead."
The line of rockets produced by IMI in recent years, mainly following the lessons learned from the Second Lebanon War, has been sold like hotcakes to a long list of armies around the world, and the IDF has also bought several. The rockets are simple, can be deployed and operated in minutes, and are capable of delivering a precise strike against targets in the heart of urban areas, while minimizing the risk of harming innocent civilians.
At the end of 2015, IMI's orders backlog for rockets totaled NIS 4 billion. Senior company officials said that it appeared that the last word is far from spoken; there is more in store. Last week, the company displayed its selection of rockets at the Singapore Air Show. The interest in the rockets shown by senior commanders in foreign armies and procurement representatives of Ministries of Defense could indicate that additional deals are likely.
Many of those interested have money. Current analyses of the global defense markets in 2016 and the following years show an upward trend in defense spending by countries welcome news for the defense companies, which have experienced years of drought and belt tightening in weapons procurement budgets. Precise attack capabilities and the development of defensive capabilities against emerging threats are among the hottest things in the market, and IMI is there, to a great extent thanks to its rockets. "There is a very high level of sophistication," Reiter notes. "Through these rockets, I provide a solution for 90% of the customer's operational needs, at half the price he would pay for another system. I'm selling a missile for the price of a rocket."
Countries that have already procured IMI precise rockets include Thailand, Argentina, Chile, Poland, Romania, and others. "We have sold 200 launchers to date, as well as thousands of rockets," Reiter relates.
Polish army tender
IMI is also currently competing with its rockets in a $500 million Polish Defense Ministry tender. The company has reached the final stage of the competitive process, and is fighting for the big bucks head-to-head with US weapons giant Lockheed Martin. IMI is offering the Poles Predator Hawk missiles with a 250-kilometer range, 200-kilogram warheads, and EXTRA missiles designed to hit targets at a 150-kilometer range with 120-kilogram warheads. Both rockets are equipped with GPS-based guidance systems.
Other rockets designed for shorter ranges are also equipped with pulsar guidance systems that constantly revise their flight route according to data fed into it in advance. These pulsars are needed because the rockets tend to spin as soon as they are launched.
IMI guarantees precision of less than 10 meters from the target for these missiles. In a series of demonstrations that the company conducted in the trial area in the presence of representatives from foreign customers, IDF representatives, and the defense establishment, the degree of precision was even better. For rockets, which were once an inaccurate statistical weapon, this is the stuff of dreams.
Support for ground troops
Based on the rocket series' precision capabilities, the company has also developed a special system for coastal and island protection called CIDS. This system integrates radar and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) purchased from other companies. The system provides accurate strikes on vessels at 40-kilometer ranges using the Accular rocket, and at ranges of up to 150 kilometers using the EXTRA rocket
The IDF is also benefiting from the great operational flexibility provided by these rockets. Last year, the IDF artillery corps decided to use the Romach rockets designed to strike at ranges of up to 35 kilometers with a 20-kilogram warhead. These rockets make it possible to attack and destroy individual targets even in the heart of a village or bustling urban neighborhood. Will it be used in the Gaza Strip? It cannot be ruled out. "The Ministry of Defense came to us and said they needed it. We got to work, and put the Romach on the shelf within two years," Reiter says. He himself was familiar with the IDF's needs from top to bottom: a few years ago, he completed a long term of service, among other things as commander of the IDF 36th Armored Division on the Golan Heights, head of operations at the general staff, and head of the doctrine and training division (his last IDF position).
In the next war, the extensive use that the artillery corps will make of the precise rockets will facilitate immediate and available support for ground troops, thereby freeing the air force - at least at the beginning of the conflict - for other important missions, such as hunting for launchers threatening the Israeli home front, critical infrastructure, IDF bases, and deep sea economic interests.
According to the threats made last week by Hezbollah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah, even an ammonia container in Haifa Bay is a target. He has ample rockets and missiles to use to carry out this threat. "With one LINX launcher capable of launching several types of rockets at different ranges, good firepower can be delivered at all the relevant ranges, thereby providing rapid support for maneuvering ground troops, without having to wait for support from combat helicopters," Reiter says.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 24, 2016
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