“The Future Is in Rockets”

Sales in IMI’s Givon Rocket Division will expand dramatically over the next year. Nathan Wechsler, the Head of Rocket Systems, explains why

Nathan Wechsler (Photo: IMI)

Israel Military Industries’ (IMI) Givon plant will expand its sales dramatically in 2012. Its expected income should reach 700 million NIS ($190 million) — a dramatic increase compared to the 470 million NIS ($120 million) it made in 2011.

According to Nathan Wechsler, Givon’s CEO, the catalyst for the growth is due to sales of rocket systems.

Rockets?

“Yes, while rockets have not been the mainstream for the Americans or the IDF, people have begun to realize in recent years that an artillery group composed of battalions of self-propelled cannons and rockets is an optimal solution,” says Wechsler.

“The cannons maintain the rate of fire, while the rockets provide the overwhelming volley. As for firepower, one rocket battalion equals an entire cannon group (several battalions). Rockets can be mounted with munitions that can withstand ten thousand G-forces, similar to cannon barrels. In recent years, as rocket fire grows increasingly precise, its advantages in urban warfare have become apparent. We sell rockets with ranges between 45 and 150 kilometers.”

Nathan Wechsler is one of the most experienced managers in Israel’s defense industries. He began working at IMI as a mechanical engineer (BEng), and went on to earn a master’s degree in aeronautic engineering in 1974. A manager for almost twenty years, he pulled the rocket division out of a freefall crisis following Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, when the country ousted the Shah, one of the division’s most reliable clients.

At the height of operations, Givon employed 1100 workers, but when sales began to slump, the plant cut back to 440 employees. Today, its employment force stands at 770, but is expected to grow depending on sales growth. Givon’s backlog for the coming years stands at 1.6 billion NIS ($430 million).

The increase in sales is almost entirely due to exports. IMI does not report its transactions, but it did publish the orders for the Extended Range Artillery (EXTRA) munitions system and its LYNX Advanced Artillery Rockets and Autonomous Launching System. The IDF will soon submit a contract to supply precision-guided rockets to the IDF’s ground forces (see the interview with the Chief Artillery Officer on this subject on p. 52)

Motors, Flares, Rockets

Wechsler outlined Givon’s three main areas of activity. Considered a national knowledge center in rocket propulsion, the plant receives research funds from the Ministry of Defense on a regular basis. Givon-developed engines are all part of Israeli missile systems and satellite launchers. Givon is also a knowledge center in another important field: pyrotechnics and heat-generating flares that deceive anti-aircraft missiles. The company is currently completing production on its sophisticated flares for American forces.

“The third area—rockets and artillery—is our key field of activity,” acknowledges Wechsler. “We entered this field after the 1967 Six-Day War. The recent breakthroughs in precision-guided systems enabled rockets to reach their target with a CEP (Circular Error Probable) of a few meters.”

IMI recently held a firing test in the south for the Accular autonomous, surface-to-surface GPS-guided rocket, in which the rocket hit the target precisely, over a distances of many kilometers.

The precision-guided Accular rocket is based on an old IMI rocket –the LAR-160 Light Artillery Rocket System. The new precision-guided rocket is equipped with a valve mechanism that ejects gas and guides the weapon to the target with GPS or INS. The EXTRA project began a decade ago in partnership with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), and is managed today solely by IMI. EXTRA has a 300mm warhead for ranges of 150 km and a CEP of 10 m.

An assortment of warheads can be mounted on it. Its length is 3790 mm and the guidance navigation system can use either a GPS or INS (an INS raises the cost of the system). Wechsler states that one of EXTRA’s main advantages is that it can be fired from a wide variety of launchers.

He also points out that Givon’s LYNX launcher—which is capable of firing various artillery rockets and tactical missiles, including GRAD, LAR, EXTRA and DELILAH-GL precision attack weapons—has been sold to a number of countries and can be mounted on different types of trucks. 

“We’re trying to sell extremely versatile systems. At IMI, we believe that the future is in rockets,” explains Wechsler.

**An EXTRA missile, capable of a range of 150 km and a precision of 10 m (Photo: IMI)

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