The defense industry, particularly in the United States, was singled out several
years ago as a growth engine with great potential for Gilat Satellite Networks
After hiring its latest recruit, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Moshe “Chiko”
Tamir, the company is creating a new defense division that will cater to defense
establishments in an effort to realize its potential for Gilat. Tamir will head
the 300-person division.
Tamir, a respected officer, retired from the IDF
two years ago, even though a military court accepted his appeal not to lower his
rank following what came to be known as the “ATV Affair.” Previously, Tamir had
admitted that he had allowed his underage son to drive an army ATV and did not
report the accident in which he was involved.
An appeals court canceled
the rank-lowering directive, even though it ruled that this was a serious
failure in his authority, saying, “Throughout his service, Tamir carried out all
of his responsibilities in an outstanding manner.”
Among the positions he
filled during his military career, Tamir was a Golani Brigade commander and a
Gaza Division commander. In 1998 he won a Northern Command citation when he was
the Egoz Unit commander.
His appointment as vice president and division
head for Gilat’s military division indicates the importance the company attaches
to this field. In an interview with Globes, Tamir declined to speak about his
military past, but he did say the transition to the business world has been
“It is a different world and an interesting change,” Tamir
said, “but at the management level, it is quite similar, since people are the
same regardless of what field they work in.”Cutting-edge technology
Gilat, which is run by Amiram Levinberg, develops miniature communications
satellite stations and supplies them together with related services. The new
division will include the two companies that Gilat acquired in 2010: RaySat,
which develops inmotion antenna systems and cost $25 million; and Wavestream,
which designs radio frequency amplifiers and cost $135m.
subsidiary in the US that supplies the local defense market, will also be part
of the division.
“The creation of the division is a natural extension of
our declared strategy to enter the defense market, and that is why they hired
me,” Tamir said. “The idea is to enter what the military world calls
‘informationbased warfare.’ There are many systems, but the challenge is to
bring the technology all they way to the front line, to integrate inmotion
satellite systems into tanks, UAVs, boats, planes and at the front
Doron Elinav, Gilat’s vice president for marketing, said the
relevant part of the US defense market is worth $4 billion, and there are
possibilities in markets outside of the US.
The homeland-security market
is also in need of mobile communications for emergency situations, Tamir
Yehoshua Levinberg, who is CEO Amiram Levinberg’s brother and is
responsible for business development and strategy, said Gilat has encountered
competition from a number of companies specializing in various
However, he said, “We think that Gilat is the leading company in
the commtech field. It is the most prominent competitor in the field, but it is
not active on the Ka frequency, which the military has access to.”There
is no military without satellites Globes: Hasn’t the economic situation in the
US caused cuts and delays that affect the purchase of Gilat products?
“The situation has influenced defense expenditure, but fortunately, the US
satellite communications purchasing plan is one of the few that has not be
harmed. The military’s satellite-communication needs have grown from year to
year, and forecasts show similar levels. All over the world, militaries are
adding satellite communication not only in divisions but also in battalions and
companies, which adds up to a large amount of products.
fall, but Gilat is an extremely balanced company and active in many markets, so
it wouldn’t be seriously hurt.”Is US defense expenditure impacted more
by a president who is a Democrat rather than a Republican?
Tamir: “Whichever one
is elected, communications equipment will have to be sent to the front line. As
long as countries keep armies – and as far as I can see this will not change in
the near future – there will be demand for communications systems. Our vision is
to be the leading supplier in the field.”The demand is not necessarily
for satellite communications systems, which is what Gilat specializes
Tamir: “This question is almost always asked. Currently, and from my
past experience, I can say that the ability for groundbased radio systems’ to
have full coverage on the modern battle field is limited. Each network needs
satellite backup, and no military system is complete without satellite
Ground forces have switched over from the antiquated system of
walkie-talkies and drawing on maps to network-based systems similar to IT
systems used in the business world, Tamir said. Except that the technological
challenges on the battlefield are completely different than in an office, he
said, because there is a need for in-motion communications, with relatively
“Our technology is intended for this field,” Tamir said.
“Our equipment can send information on a network all the way to the first tank
and the first infantryman on the front line.”Supplying the IDF is always
prestigious Does the fact that Gilat is an Israeli company affect its ability to
sell in the US?
Tamir: “Being an Israeli company in the defense field is an
advantage, especially combined with Gilat’s tradition and branding. It’s true
that it is difficult to break into the US defense market, and that’s why our
strategy included acquiring the US company Wavestream.”
And what is
happening in the Israeli market?
Tamir: “Gilat will always have a soft spot for
Israel, especially with someone like me who retired form the IDF just a short
while ago. The IDF is a unique and strategic customer, including from a
financial point of view. But the connection is not just financial, since Gilat
is an Israeli company whose workers perform reserve duty in the IDF. The
prestige of supplying the IDF is also known worldwide.”After years with
no acquisitions, Gilat acquired two companies in 2010 in an effort to gain a
foothold in the defense field. Have these acquisitions proven themselves so far?
Tamir: “It is too early to see financial results, but the capital that Gilat
invested shows how much we believe that this is the right direction. Everyone
who knows this field knows that these processes take time, and a year is not a
long enough period of time to see changes.”
Levinberg: “We acquired
RaySat at the beginning of 2010 and we already see results.
we recently reported a $10 million deal with a Latin American country. A small
company like RaySat would not have been able to close such a deal without being
part of Gilat. The process is still under way at Wavestream.”Are there
any future acquisitions on the table?
Levinberg: “We are still in the digesting
stage of the previous acquisitions, so no additional acquisitions are currently
in the works.”What are the sales targets for the new defense division?
Tamir: “We are not revealing our targets and do not want to make any
We have reported in the past that Wavestream contributes
$60 million to $70 million a year. With RaySat’s and Gilat’s existing
technologies, the potential is very great.”Israel will always need an
army to protect it
In his first interview since he joined Gilat six months ago,
Tamir made a point of speaking solely about Gilat and refused to speak about his
past in the IDF or what is currently happening in the IDF.
was willing to say a few words about the possibility that the social protest and
the Trajtenberg Committee might bring about cuts in the defense budget,
following changes on Israel’s southern border.
“The basic threats to the
State of Israel do not change,” Tamir said. “What changes every once in a while
is implementation of resources. The militaries and arms are always there; the
willingness to use them can change. During our 100 years of existence here, this
willingness has waxed and waned, but Israel will always need an army to protect
it, and we must never forget this.”