Written by Andrey Yashlavsky
Translated by Elizaveta Ovchinnikova
18 June 2022
During the Special Military Operation in Ukraine conducted by Russia, it suddenly became clear that the European and American arsenals were empty. Kiev has become sharply lacking not only modern weapons systems but also ammunition. Western partners began to cut, or even refuse to supply shells of various calibers and missiles under an amazing pretext – they’re lacking it themselves. And here’s a new player attracting attention – Israel, which presented a wide range of its military products at the Eurosatory defence exhibition that opened in Paris. President of the All-Russian public organisation ‘IPA Russian Section’, Doctor of Law, Professor, Honoured Lawyer of Russia, Lieutenant-General Yury Zhdanov told what role Israel may play in the arms market and whether new Israeli military technologies will be directed against Russia.
– Yury Nikolaevich, how do you assess the presence of Israel at the current exhibition in Paris?
– Very worthy. This time, the International Defenсe Cooperation Directorate at Israel’s Ministry of Defence (SIBAT) is holding a powerful demonstration of the country’s defence industry, opening a pavilion with the participation of 56 of its companies. Amira Ilani, Director of Europe and North America at SIBAT, said, ‘Europe is without doubt one of the most vital markets we now have’. He also stressed that Israel sees interest in its advanced technologies from all over the world. There are three major defence companies in Israel: Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit Systems. In addition, SIBAT representatives intend to contribute to the development of small and medium-sized enterprises in the country.
– What are the Israelis demonstrating, what are they going to trade?
– We should admit that Israel traditionally has very good weapons. This is the famous UZI submachine gun, the Galil automatic rifle. The Merkava tank is at least as good as the Leopard 2, not to mention the American squalor Abrams. And the Kfir fighter is not inferior to Phantoms, Mirages and even our MiGs.
But now, for dozens of Israeli companies at the Eurosatory exhibition, advanced technologies have become the main topic. This includes the use of artificial intelligence, the accuracy of threat detection, guidance and surveillance systems, unmanned platforms and high-tech applications for the ground forces, autonomous systems, real-time data transmission channels, thermal imaging sights.
These innovations, some of which are operating in Israel or are already being demonstrated abroad, are based on Israel’s recent multi-year defence plan called Momentum. One of the fragments of the plan is the transition to laser-based air defence. Across the entire spectrum of the Israeli defence industry, there is a desire to introduce artificial intelligence, as well as to double target recognition and situational awareness.
As a result, Israeli companies went to Europe with a set of newly developed technologies or enhanced capabilities of existing systems.
In June, Rafael announced its new 6th generation SPIKE NLOS high precision missile. The Rafael’s Spike family is used in 39 countries. In Europe, these weapons are sold under the name Eurospike.
Rafael claims that their newest version has an improved firing range (up to 50 km), can be launched with a volley of up to four missiles and, moreover, from a single platform, such as a helicopter, and transmitted for targeting to operators on the ground. According to the manufacturer, it includes image matching capabilities.
– I wonder: why did the Israelis begin to offer such a good weapon widely and actively right now?
– As Zhvanetsky said, ‘my salary is good but small’. The capacities of the Israeli industry do not allow to flood the whole world with their weapons. In addition, Israeli weapons are very reliable, high quality but too high tech and science intensive, which means they are expensive to produce.
And then – there was a shortage in the European market, and now you can even dictate your prices – they’ll buy anyway. In such laboratory conditions, you just have to take your legitimate advantage.
As the Israeli defence complex’ leaders emphasise, as the conflict in Ukraine has been going on for more than three months, ‘tectonic changes in defense posture in the United States, Europe and other countries have meant a new focus on Israel’s defence industry as off-the-shelf suppliers.’ Of course, the Israelis won’t solve all the weapons problems of the West but they’ll definitely throw firewood on the fire.
– What exactly are the Israelis offering for sale?
– They have very interesting technical solutions. So, they demonstrate the new concept of NLOS Mission Taskforce, or NMT. This is a whole technological package that allows small units to hit remote or hidden targets.
Rafael attributes the importance of these systems to the general need for mobility on the battlefield, as well as the protection of forces with systems such as its SPYDER air defence system and I-Dome, the mobile version of Iron Dome. Yes, this very Iron Dome. At the same time, the company in its statement very transparently hinted at the military conflict in Ukraine: ‘The security situation in Europe has revealed the need for such defence technologies that can cover vast territories and are easily deployed and moved in accordance with the needs in this arena.’
There are other ‘red flags’ for us. Thus, the partnership of the Israeli company UVision and the German Rheinmetall also seems to hint at the Ukrainian conflict. They are working together to integrate UVision barrage ammunition into next-generation manned and unmanned infantry fighting vehicles. These weapons will provide troops with a new ability to detect, track and reliably destroy well-armoured targets from long distances.
And another company, the IAI, stressed the importance of detecting threats to units on the move. The company announced that it will introduce the OTHELLO-P product – passive high-performance gunfire detection system (GDS) with built-in artificial intelligence processing. The system is designed to detect any shots of subsonic ammunition, including RPG and even pistol. Imagine, a projectile will fly to the bang of the Glock. It can be installed on various types of vehicles, as well as on unmanned platforms. The IAI statement emphasises that the system was developed in its innovation centre, which employs engineers who previously served in the Israel Defence Forces. By the way, we have such systems created already ten years ago.
Among other new technologies presented, special attention is paid to unmanned systems or additions to existing unmanned capabilities. For example, Steadicopter highlights its new Golden Eagle, which, according to the company, is ‘the first-ever unmanned helicopter with precise hit capabilities’. It is based on the existing Black Eagle 50E platform and now uses artificial intelligence and the SMASH Dragon system, which is essentially an automatic rifle embedded in a drone.
The RoboTiCan company presents Rooster, a hybrid drone robot for scanning internal and underground tunnels. The company also produces a drone interceptor called the GOSHAWK. And the ThirdEye Systems company specialising in drones has developed a new version of its Chimera payload for UAVs, which provides day and night sensors and object recognition based on vision. Let me remind you that some combat drones are manufactured in Russia under Israeli licenses.
– Do you think that these systems, being purchased by our enemies, can go straight from the exhibition into battle?
– Nothing can be excluded. But I don’t think everything will be done so straightforwardly.
The conflict in Ukraine is a kind of background for Israel’s Ministry of Defence and many Israeli companies demonstrating new technologies. ‘We learned from our own experience. In relation to the crisis in Europe, all countries are assessing the situation there to build up’, Amira Ilani said in a streamlined manner.
So, there are reports of German interest in the Arrow 3 air defence system, as well as persistent questions about whether Israeli systems like Spike could be supplied to Ukraine.
– Do you believe they can?
– The relevant Israeli agencies and defence companies declined to comment on these reports. But Israel carefully monitors where and how the purchased systems are used. Until the last moment, it will demonstrate or portray its neutrality, as if not participating in the conflict.
So, there were reports on the Internet that 21 IDF soldiers captured in Mariupol by DPR fighters returned to Israel. It was claimed that they trained the Ukrainian military in aerial reconnaissance, the use of Starlink satellite systems and even sabotage operations in the city. But they allegedly did not participate in the battles themselves. Well, it’s like in the joke:
- Rabinovich, do you have an alibi? - And what is it? - Well, did anyone see you at the time of the murder? - Thank God no.
And, as reported, at the request of the Israeli government, the instructors were released. In response, the Israelis promised to minimise military cooperation with Ukraine.
However, if Israel wants, it will sell all its military novelties to the same USA, which will then transfer them to Ukraine under the lend–lease system. This scheme, according to the American and Israeli media, has already been discussed between the leadership of the two countries’ Ministries of Defence regarding the Israeli air defence system ‘Iron Dome.’