"There is no such thing as 100% security," admits Nir Regev, Head of the new HLS Administration at IMI.
Regev is one of Israel's foremost experts on security in general and aviation security in particular, as in his previous positions he was head of security for El-Al Airlines, the ISA officer in charge of security for all Israeli airlines (not just El-Al), and subsequently Head of the ISA HLS Division.
So, there is no way of obtaining a full-proof security standard that would ensure zero terrorist attacks?
"The results are good because the Israeli security layout is the best in the world," says Regev, "But it does not grant full immunity. This security layout may possess the best technology available, and in addition – and that is our tremendous advantage, whether at Ben-Gurion Airport or at the Security Division of El-Al – we have the skilled and highly-trained human element. The ability of our people to try and identify body language, irregular indicators that the machine cannot identify – is very high. The combination of the technological and human elements gives Israeli security its solid reputation, but even that does not guarantee full immunity.
"There are still gaps in various areas. World Jihad organizations and other elements are studying us all the time, and they aim for an attack against aviation. We see it in our intelligence. For example, they developed an in-vivo (inside-the-body) explosive charge, namely – a bomb that may be planted under the body tissues. It will be extremely difficult to identify a terrorist carrying a charge of this type, and that is just one example of the challenges with which security copes all the time."
So, it is a world that never rests?
"In the aviation world, things are dynamic all the time. There is a constant demand to cut costs, there are the dynamics of the working environment and the dynamics that the enemy creates – new explosives that cannot be detected, or new terrorist attack tactics. For example, there is the threat of an attempt to shoot down an aircraft outside the airport using surface-to-air missiles. The security layout must be sharp and alert and keep coming up with solutions for the evolving threats, including tactical, biological and strategic solutions."
By "biological solution" you refer to the sense of smell of dogs, for example?
"Dogs have certain explosive charge spotting capabilities, but there are other biological sensors capable of detecting explosive charges. This field is very interesting.
Nir Regev joined IMI about five months ago. Prior to that he had acquired a highly diversified background within the Israeli defense establishment. He started out as a trooper of the Golani infantry brigade, through the ranks of which he advanced all the way to the position of commander of the brigade's 13th battalion. Following his discharge from the IDF he joined the intelligence services, where he advanced all the way to the position of head of the ISA HLS Division. In that capacity he was, in fact, responsible for the entire field of aviation security – airports and sea ports, but the security of embassies and official missions overseas and border crossings as well. Prior to that, Regev had served, among other positions, as head of security at El-Al Airlines and as security officer in various overseas stations, including Nairobi (Kenya) and the USA.
Regev is 46, married and the father of 3, and has a master's degree in business administration.
"I am fully aware of the fact that my career has been highly unusual," he says. "In fact, with the exception of the Israel Police, I served in all of the security organizations. This has given me two notable advantages: on the one hand, (I am aware of) the attacker's perspective, not just the defender's, as in the past I had served in a relevant operational unit, and on the other hand – (I gained) experience working with government agencies as well as opposite such public companies as El-Al. Sometimes, people who come from public institutions do not understand budget restrictions."
What are the functions of IMI's HLS Administration? What is your vision?
"The HLS Administration was established in the context of a comprehensive organizational restructuring at IMI in 2014. It is understood that HLS offers a tremendous opportunity with regard to each and every parameter.
"IMI decided to enter this world. As far as I am concerned, the objective, first and foremost, is for the Administration to generate profits. The business model is based on taking the products by IMI and converting them so as to offer solutions to HLS needs, in such fields as rescue, emergency services and so forth. There are products at the very core of HLS – in such fields as protection, mobilization, rescue and vehicles that we already have and may use for this purpose.
"For example, we have the armored vehicle designated Wild Cat, which may carry personnel, equipment and so on in HLS applications. During Operation Protective Edge, one of the emergency services used this vehicle to determine how it operates under fire, and it was a great success."
Generally speaking, does the HLS market fulfill your expectations, business-wise and technology-wise?
"If you look at the competition, you will realize that they are doing well in these fields overseas. There is a demand for Israeli products, for Israeli concepts and methodologies, mainly owing to our experience and technological innovation. There is no reason why IMI cannot offer system-wide, multidimensional solutions that will incorporate products by IMI along with products by other companies.
"We have an excellent potential to serve as integrators – we are a sizable company with a substantial turnover, capable of leading large-scale projects based on a good scientific infrastructure and a marketing layout that currently sells defense, but is perfectly capable of selling HLS as well. This is an evolving market, and it will grow steadily. There are more and more countries around the world that understand the needs."
According to Nir Regev, the HLS Administration he is heading plans to focus on four categories.
"The first category is installation security: aviation, maritime, ground and such mega events as the Olympic Games. The second category is internal security: from safe city projects and counterterrorism systems to correctional facilities, firefighting systems and border protection installations. The third category is home front defense, namely – civil defense: protection, defensive measures and natural disasters. The last category is cyber warfare, which, as far as we are concerned, we want as an element of project security. We want to incorporate cyber warfare solutions in our security proposals. Our Administration will include a cyber warfare element.
"The vision is to offer comprehensive, innovative solutions with IMI serving as integrator in the various fields of HLS, mainly to clients overseas, and to position ourselves as a leader in this field."
What about protection for energy installations? Do you have anything to offer in that field?
"We have a lot to offer in the field of protection. In addition to concepts and integration. The economic water world is an interesting field."
What is Israel's relative advantage in the field of HLS? development of operational doctrines and concepts or technologies?
"Both. Other countries catch up and close the technological gaps, but we still have an advantage with regard to concepts, integration – combining everything together. I see countries where they know how to operate machines, but they do not always know how to establish units or train them.
"But Israel is a leader with regard to technologies as well. Look at the MUSIC (Multi Spectral Infrared Countermeasures) system developed by Elbit Systems for the purpose of protecting aircraft against missiles. It is a heart-warming achievement. It was impressive to see industries that encounter a very difficult problem and find a solution within a very short time – they created a laser gun that offers a fantastic solution. Missiles are sold on the black market for moderate prices. After Libya collapsed, the missiles they had over there scattered and were sold to the highest bidder. Israel has a technological solution for this threat."
What about installation security?
"I think that to a considerable extent, we learned in Cairo (from the emergency evacuation of the Israeli embassy pursuant to an attack by a mob four years ago), just as the Americans learned in Benghazi, that erecting walls and gates are not always enough."
Pursuant to the phenomenon known as the "Arab Spring", the active use (Hamas uses crowds passively) of an incited unarmed crowd that manages to enter embassies has been extensive – as was the case of the attack against the US Embassy in Benghazi.
"Generally speaking, the task of coping with a mob you cannot fire at using lethal weapons, as that will be illegal and would not look good on television or Youtube, raises the need for less-lethal weapons. IMI had produced less-lethal weapons and munitions in the past, and now has a system capable of firing less-lethal rounds very accurately.
"Everything should be supported by protective measures and obstacles, as well as by an element associated with cyber warfare, in order to find out well in advance about a planned demonstration. It is also necessary to try and spot irregularities through all sorts of measures designed to spot irregularities, collect intelligence and identify manipulations on the Internet according to various types of information. The installation should be manned, but today even that is not enough."