Elbit to help Japan building a modern Defense Industry

Above: Japanese soldiers during an exercise at a US Marine Corps Base. Credit: US DoD

Elbit Systems, Nippon Aircraft Supply and Itochu Aviation have signed a strategic cooperation Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to promote mutual cooperation for the benefit of Japan’s defense efforts. As part of the MOU, Elbit Systems will provide the main components, technology and knowledge to NAS and Itochu. NAS will provide the capabilities for local integration, manufacturing, test and maintenance and Itochu will lead the marketing of the products in Japan. The cooperation marks an urgent need of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces.

Japan is now facing new threats from North Korea and China, but following many years of neglect, its defense forces and defense industry are small and lack modern capabilities. According to Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, over the past thirty years, Japan has maintained an annual defense budget of about 1% of its GDP. This is below the 2% NATO benchmark and even further from regional counterparts such as South Korea, India, and Taiwan. “Decades of low spending have left Japan’s defense force with aging physical infrastructure and low munitions stockpiles. Upgrading Japan’s defense sector will take years to complete, only yielding full benefits well-after 2027.”

Technology and knowhow transfer

The MOU with Elbit is aimed to address the growing Japanese interest in the field of defense. Osamu Matsushita, President of Nippon Aircraft Supply said the partners will contribute to Japan’s defense by providing high-quality made-in Japan products. “We will act in the role of integration, local production, testing and maintenance with the most advanced and combat-proven solutions developed by Elbit Systems.”

Ran Kril, Executive VP International Marketing & Business Development of Elbit Systems, said that Elbit is in close contact with its local partners and offers them innovative and cutting-edge technological solutions. “We remain committed to the transfer of technology as well as the manufacturing of our solutions in the local market.”

Elbit to Supply Watchkeeper X Tactical UAS to Romania

Elbit Systems was awarded a framework contract with a maximum value of approximately $410 million to supply up to 7 Watchkeeper X tactical unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to the Romanian Army, with a validity of five years. No specific purchase order was awarded yet. The Watchkeeper X UAS is the UK export variant of the British army made by U-TacS, Elbit’s UK subsidiary in cooperation with Thales, and is a derivative of the Hermes UAS family. Watchkeeper’s compatibility with  NATO standards enables essential interoperability with NATO and other allied forces.

Bezalel (Butzi) Machlis, President and CEO of Elbit Systems, said that as part of the contract execution, Elbit plans to establish infrastructure and industrial cooperation with U-TacS, Aerostar and Elbit Systems’ subsidiaries in Romania to produce the UAS in Romania. Watchkeeper is based on Elbit’s Hermes 450 and is considered one of the biggest UAS European programs. Since the first flight in 2010, Watchkeeper has accumulated over 3,000 flying hours, including successful service in Afghanistan, where it played a crucial protective role for British troops.

Elbit’s Hermes UAS was approved to fly in Israel civil airspace

The Civil Aviation Authority of the State of Israel (CAAI) in the MOT has certified an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), the Hermes Starliner, a Type Certificate, approving it to fly in all civilian airspace, just like any other civilian airplane. Head of the CAAI, Joel Feldschuh, says this is the first time in the world to provide an UAS an identical certificate to civilian plane. “The certification we granted to the Hermes Starliner is aligned with international activity in this field. This Type Certificate was issued at the end of a fundamental process that we led for six years that included thousands of man hours, dozens of audits, laboratory tests, ground tests, intensive flight tests and thousands of documents under our supervision”.

The certificate complements Hermes’ compliance with NATO standardization for approving UAS for integration in civilian airspaces. Until now, unmanned aerial vehicles were allowed to fly only in military airspaces or designated air corridors. The Type Certificate changes this reality. The Hermes Starliner is equipped with a wingspan of 17 meters and weighing 1.6 tons. It is capable of up to 36 hours of continuous flight at an altitude of up to 25,000 ft. and can carry an additional 450 kg of electro-optical, thermal, radar and other technical payloads. 

The Hermes Starliner is based on Elbit’s Hermes 900 UAS, and is integrated with advanced civil aviation technological capabilities such as terrain avoidance warning system, automatic take-off and landing in harsh visibility, redundant avionics, sensors and satellite data links and adverse weather capabilities. Elbit already won contracts to supply the Hermes Starliner to the Swiss Federal Department of Defense and the Canadian Ministry of Transportation.

U.S performed first autonomous helicopter flight

The transition of air forces to unmanned aerial vehicles is in the process of accelerating, and is also expanding to aircrafts that were considered so far as unsuitable for the UAV concept. Recently, Lockheed Martin,  Sikorsky and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced the completion of an exceptional project: full autonomous flight of the Black Hawk UH-60A  helicopter with no crew onboard. The flight was part of the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) program. The helicopter completed 30-minutes of uninhabited flight over the U.S. Army installation at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and was operated by the Sikorsky MATRIX™ autonomous flying system. 

The US army is in the process of exploring potential use cases for UAS technologies, including for the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) helicopter. Lead test pilot at Fort Campbell, Benjamin Williamson, says the technology allows pilots to switch from autonomous to piloted control at any point with “the flip of a switch” in the cockpit. “This will allow for reducing work load in a variety of missions, in degraded weather conditions or in threatened environments. The system will automatically detect dangerous situations for the helicopter or to the execution of the mission – dangers that may lead to accidents and thereby saving crew and soldiers lives”.  

Elbit to lead Human-Robot Interaction Consortium

Elbit Systems’ C4I and Cyber group was chosen to lead the Human-Robot Interaction (HRI) technologies research and development consortium, lately approved by the Israel Innovation Authority. The new consortium includes robotics companies and academic researchers in the fields of Artificial Intelligence, computer science and behavioral sciences. It will develop HRI infrastructures to address the needs of close interaction between robotic systems and human users through natural communications methodologies (verbal & gestures) and according to relevant social codes and robotic platforms level of autonomy.

Today, autonomous robotic platforms (those not continuously controlled by a human operator) operate in a “sterile” human-free environment, such as logistics centers and automated production and assembly lines. Integrating robots in a shared workspace environment with human teams will allow the transfer of routine, dull and burnout-inducing tasks to robots and reduce workloads on human teams, thereby increasing crew productivity and reducing their rotation. Such integration will only be possible when human crews feel confident and able to communicate naturally with robots, operating in their close environment.

Elbit is active in the field of autonomous systems and robotics and provides aerial, land and naval autonomous systems. Last month it made a demonstration for the Royal Netherlands Army, exhibiting the use of heterogeneous autonomous swarms working in cooperation with human teams. During the capability demonstration, different robotic pairings operated as swarms autonomously performing three types of operational missions. The missions included planning, navigating to predefined points, allocating sectors and the performance of various tasks.

Strong Currency drives Elbit to offshore production

Above: Elbit’s self-propelled howitzer gun system, ATMOS

Elbit Systems announced 20% growth in sales during Q3 2021, to $1.36 billion, as compared to $1.13 billion in the third quarter of 2020. Gross profit in the third quarter amounted to $371 million (27% of revenues), compared to $302 million in Q3 2020. Elbit is a major Israeli defense and homeland security solutions provider with a broad portfolio of airborne, land and naval systems and products. Backlog orders as of September 30, 2021 was approximately $13.6 billion.

Last month it was awarded a contract to operate Texan T-6C training aircrafts for the UK Air Force, a $100 million contract to provide the Royal Navy with new Electronic Warfare capabilities, a $74 million order to supply airborne munitions for the Korean Air Force and a $106 million to supply its newly SIGMA fully automatic self-propelled howitzer gun systems, to a country in Asia-Pacific.

The problem with the Israeli shekel

But during the conference call following the quarterly results report, it was clear the Elbit in very concerned about the currency situation. Joseph Gaspar, Elbit’s  Chief Financial Officer, brought the issue to the table: “We continue to implement mitigation plans to limit the impact of the strengthening of the Israeli shekel. In the short-term, this includes the adoption of a rolling hedge policy and efficiency measures. Over the longer term, we plan to expand our manufacturing footprint in high quality lower cost countries to better balance our currency exposure and reduce risk.”

Bezhalel Machlis, Elbit’s President and CEO, added some color: “We have dozens of companies all around the world, in Brazil, in the U.S., in the U.K., in Germany, in India and many other places. So we are taking advantage of the positions we have in these markets and we are expanding our facilities there. It helps us first to be more local, to be more crafted and to do more jobs on the ground. And secondly, also to hedge some of our activities, which we do in Israel and other facilities. So all together, we have a long-term plan to improve the profitability of the company.”

Production of howitzer guns in The US

In November 2021, Elbit Systems of America (ESA) announced plans to establish a new 135,000 square foot facility in Charleston, South Carolina, for combat vehicle assembly and integration center of excellence. “The new facility is part of Elbit strategy to expand our engineering and manufacturing capability in the U.S. This facility will create around 300 new jobs. We expect operations in the facility to begin by the third quarter of 2022, to support contracts ESA received from the Israeli Ministry of Defense for the supply of self-propelled howitzer gun systems.”


Elbit Systems Acquires BAE Systems Rokar

Elbit Systems announced the acquisition of Rokar International from BAE Systems (U.S. subsidiary of BAE Systems) for approximately $31 million in cash.  Jerusalem based Rokar specializes in the development, manufacture, integration, and support of high-end GPS receivers and guidance systems for advanced defense applications.

Elbit’s President & CEO, Bezhalel Machlis, said that Rokar’s technologies are already integrated in Elbit’s solutions. “There is an increasing demand for networked precision fire solutions. The acquisition will enhance our capabilities in this growing area of activity.”

Rokar provides GPS solutions for space, air, land, and naval platforms, and hardened GPS solutions for rockets, smart munitions and projectiles, planned to perform in challenging conditions such as radiation, shocks resistance, high-dynamic maneuvering, and jammed environments. BAE’s Rokar developed BAE’s Silver Bullet guidance kit, that gives 10 meter target hit precision for standard 155mm artillery shells. The Rokar Silver Bullet guidance system is designed to transform an artillery shell into a highly accurate munition.

According to Dun and Bradstreet, Rokar has 120 employees in Jerusalem and it generates $US16 million in annual sales. Elbit’s revenues in 2020 were $4,662.6 million, as compared to $4,508.4 million in the year ended December 31, 2019. The majority of the revenues in 2020 generated by the airborne systems and land systems divisions.

Backlog of orders for the year ended December 31, 2020 totaled $11,024 million, as compared to $10,029 million as of December 31, 2019. Approximately 65% of the current backlog is attributable to orders from outside Israel. Approximately 65% of the current backlog is scheduled to be performed during 2021 and 2022.

Elbit Systems to Acquire Sparton

Above: Elbit’s Seagull Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) during torpedo launching tests

Elbit Systems’ subsidiary, Elbit Systems of America, has signed a definitive agreement with Cerberus Capital Management, for the acquisition of US-based Sparton Corporation for a purchase price of $380 million. Headquartered in De Leon Springs, Florida, Sparton is a supplier of Undersea Warfare systems for the US Navy and allied military forces since WWI. Cerberus acquired Sparton in 2019, and in June 2020 it sold its contract manufacturing unit, Manufacturing & Design Services, to One Equity Partners, which rebranded MDS business as Spartronics.

Today the company is comprised of three divisions: Undersea Warfare Solutions (UWS), Aydin Displays, and Stealth. The UWS division provides mission-critical sonobuoys for Anti-Submarine Warfare and depth-rated encapsulated systems to support Subsea and Seabed Warfare. Aydin division provides ruggedized displays for military and industrial use, and the Stealth division manufactures industrial computer components and industrial-grade small form factor PCs.

Naval Warefare is getting closer to Elbit’s expertise

The acquisition is part of a broader strategy of Elbit aimed to expand its reach in the mitiltary naval markets. It estimates that the new battle space scenario demands force interoperability and a net-centric approach to the entire naval fleet. The naval force of the future will be linked so that all personnel and platforms operate jointly to sense, assess and respond to threats. This brings the Naval Warfare closer to Elbit’s current expertise such as Battle management systems, Electronic Warefare, C4I, Autonomous platforms and more.

This growing activity comes in may shapes and forms: In August 2020, Elbit’s subsidiary GeoSpectrum unveiled compact Very Low Frequency (VLF) long-range acoustic underwater transducers that send and recieve transmissions for distances of up to 2500 km and capable to effectively operate under ice. In July 2020, Elbit expanded its Seagull Unmanned Surface Vessel beyond Anti-Submarine Warfare and Mines Countermeasure (MCM), by integrating a mini-Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) onboard the Seagull USV, providing it an intelligence gathering capabilities.

The Seagull autonomous multi-mission USV features switchable, modular mission payload suites and can perform, in addition to ASW, Mine Countermeasure missions (MCM), Electronic Warfare (EW), Maritime Security (MS), Hydrography and other missions using the same vessel, mission control system and data links. It offers navies a force multiplier, reducing risk to human life and dramatically cutting procurement and operating costs.