IsraelDefense’s Best of the Year: Elbit Systems

Dan Arkin chose Elbit Systems as the most prominent player in the defense market last year. From the UAVs they operate in various IDF units to their state-of-the-art helmets for the pilots of the F-35 Adir stealth fighters to the acquisition of IMI Systems

Photo: Elbit Systems

The warfighters of the Rokhev Shamayim unit of the IDF Artillery Corps are used to seeing alongside them, in the field and at their base, the civilians wearing the shirts of Elbit Systems, as they operate Skylark UAVs manufactured by Elbit. The same goes for the IAF operators of the larger UAVs, IAF designation Zik (Hermes 450), also manufactured by Elbit. The Hermes 450 has a younger – but larger – brother, the Hermes 900 Starliner, one of the largest UAVs manufactured in Israel, also by Elbit – a giant platform unveiled last year.

The pilots of the F-35 stealth fighters at the Adir Squadron deployed at Nevatim airbase, like the F-35 pilots in the twelve other countries that fly these fighters, wear the pilot helmet manufactured by Elbit Systems and Rockwell Collins of the USA. At Elbit, they are developing a state-of-the-art pilot display for this aircraft. At sea, the operators of the Unmanned Surface Vessel Seagull will also meet the specialists of Elbit Systems. This USV has taken part in naval exercises with foreign navies and in Anti-Submarine Warfare exercises with members of NATO. In faraway Australia, the men of the Australian Army will soon receive a new command and control system by Elbit, and the warfighters of that country will point their firearms using sights made by Elbit.

When the Defense Minister and the Finance Minister, the Elbit Systems Board of Directors and the Antitrust Commissioner approved the acquisition of IMI Systems by the Elbit Systems Group recently, Elbit tipped the scales and emerged as a leading Israeli defense industry.

The extensive deployment of the originally Haifa-based company consists of multiple layers:  business deployment, deployment by categories, professional deployment and geographic deployment, in Israel and in dozens of countries around the world. Some people argue that Elbit Systems holds a portion of Israel's defense industries that is simply too big.

Elbit Systems is deeply rooted in the IDF. For example, simulators by Elbit are in use at the IAF Flying School and the fighter simulator complex at Hatzor airbase. Two subsidiaries, El-Op and Elisra, are the leaders in the fields of electronics, electro-optics and electronic warfare. At the laboratories of the group's Land & ISTAR System Division, they are hard at work devising cutting-edge developments that will star on the future battlefields, in both symmetrical military conflicts (involving such elements as infantry, armored forces, artillery, engineers, air force, etc.) and asymmetrical conflicts involving operations against terrorist organizations and during "war-between-wars" periods. Clients for these innovative systems will range from GHQ command centers that run the entire war effort through special operations units all the way to the individual warfighter on the battlefield.

In the civilian market, Elbit's DIRCM system, offering active protection against missiles for civilian aircraft, has been particularly prominent. The system has already logged 100,000 flight hours on board dozens of platforms in 15 countries, including passenger aircraft of Israeli airlines. The passenger aircraft manufactured by the ATR Company of France carry the ClearVision enhanced flight vision system manufactured by Elbit.

More about the group's geographic deployment: production plants, installations, laboratories and offices of the Elbit Systems Group are located throughout Israel, from north to south: in Tel-Hai, Carmiel, Yokneam, Haifa, Caesarea, Netanya, Raanana, Holon, Rehovot, Sderot and Beersheba. The Elbit Systems Group is simply everywhere.

Elbit Systems is a tough competitor for other Israeli defense industries. In some cases, the competition is fair while in others it is not so fair, as competition is a brutal and ruthless business: everyone wants to sell. In some cases, the competition is simply unnecessary, but it is not easy to establish cooperative alliances between defense industries in this country. However, the business performance of the Elbit Systems Group is very impressive, and the group possesses multiple knowledge centers and a massive pool of professional expertise.

Possibly the most important thing is what Elbit Systems does not have: for decades, Elbit Systems has been running without an employee committee (union) of the type that attempts to manage the company and make life miserable for the managers and owners. If we compare the situation at Elbit Systems to the situation in other industries, we will realize that this may be one of the secrets of the continued success of the Elbit Systems Group.