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Israel will soon start to pump gas found on the bed of the Mediterranean to the shore. This is a crucial moment in the defense of these natural gas reservoirs.
And as always the defense follows the budgets. When direct defense budgets tend to shrink, those that are earmarked for homeland security increase. The fact that wars have changed, and now range from low intensity (LIC) to anti terror operations, has changed the attitude of many defense contractors in Isabel to this market. It can be said as a fact, that what until a few years ago was considered “by products” of the industry, are now no less than a growth engine for some of the industries.
Rafael, one of Israel’s most advanced weapon systems developers has invested money and efforts in developing a full concept for protecting vital installations from the sea. Israel has some of its main economic installations along the shore of the Mediterranean. Power plants, Refineries and naturally ports, are along the shores that in the past were used as entry points for terrorists.
The big oil and gas fields that have been discovered off the Israeli shore are in the focus of the threats from Terror organizations like the Hezbollah in Lebanon.
So , Rafael has developed a comprehensive concept for the defense of strategic installations and this refers to many types. Electro optical payloads, other sensors, remotely operated weapon stations, all these and others have been adapted to the new mission.
The company says that the concept is based on sensors , data fusion and unmanned platforms that replace humans in long shifts of duty.
The Rafael Protector Unmanned vessel has is currently operational in Israel and some other countries. “This is the fourth generation of the system that has proved its capability” Unlike in the early versions, the vessel itself is not an “off the shelf” commercial speed boat but a Rafael dedicated design. The 11 meters long Protector can cope with very high seas and perform 48 hours long missions. While the Protector is getting better, the aerial section of homeland security is not idle.
The Elta division of Israel aerospace industries (IAI) , has teamed with Bombardier and are offering a very advanced maritime patrol aircraft based on the Q-400.
Elta says that the Q-400 is being offered as a direct replacement to the Lockheed Martin P-3 .”This aircraft has very low operational costs and gives the crew a very comfortable working environment” a company source said.
The Q-400 in maritime patrol/ SAR/ anti submarine roles configuration, is being offered by Elta/Bombardier, in cooperation with Field Aviation from Canada.
The main sensor is the best selling Elta EL/M-2022 multi-mode airborne maritime surveillance radar. The package includes Sigint and optical sensors. Elta and its partners , use the experience gathered from the operation of the Q-300 in maritime patrol role . This aircraft used by Sweden and Iceland is also equipped with the EL/M-2022 radar. The Q-400 maritime patrol aircraft has a “very big ” market potential as countries are more aware of the need to monitor the seas for many types of threats including pirates.
The Israeli navy is also interested in the Q-400 in its maritime patrol configuration but budget problems have so far delayed any real negotiation. Currently, the Israeli navy is using the old IAI 1124 jet for maritime patrol.
IAI Heron unmanned air systems are used for close range maritime missions.
But in the big array of platforms and sensors there is a new comer that makes its first steps in this market.
Recently Israel aerospace industries (IAI) has unveiled the Electric Tethered Observation Platform (ETOP) as a direct substitute for tactical observation aerostats , deployed along borders and near sensitive installations.
IAI is in the final phase of developing the ETOP which will become a “family” of very advanced systems in different sizes. ETOP is a electrically-powered, tethered, airborne platform which can be used for observation, surveillance and other applications.
ETOP can either be deployed from a static station, a maritime platform or from a moving ground vehicle. It can carry a payload of up to 20kg and operate up to a maximum altitude of 100 meters. ETOP combines an electrically-powered aerial platform and a ground system which includes the means for automatic deployment, cables, and a mission management unit. “We see a meaningful potential market for these systems mainly in countries that are operating aerostats, but not only” an IAI source said.
And when the earmarked homeland defenדe budgets grow, it is only natural that new solutions are being offered. Here again , IAI reacted very fast and is offering a modified version of its G-550 conformal airborne early warning (CAEW) aircraft that has the capability to detect targets at sea and near shores.
IAI explains that the new version will have all the basic AEW capabilities with added ones to detect targets at sea.” The need of many countries is to get a full picture of their sea border zone and integrate it into one big potential threat picture “an IAI source said .
The G550 based CAEW long-endurance, high-altitude platform carries conformal dual-band AESA Radar & IFF , Electronic Support Measures (ESM) and an integrated Self-Protection System (SPS).
The G550 based CAEW includes a comprehensive Communication Suite designed for Network Centric Operations (NCO) which ensures extensive interoperability in any theater.
According to foriegn press the G-550 in its CAEW configuration is currently used by the Israeli air-force (IAF) and by the airforce of Singapore.
So the technical ideas follow the money. It will bring more new contracts to the Israeli aerospace and defense industries , but more important ,spin-offs that will be used by the “pure” military users.