IAF A-4, F-16 jets at Hatzerim_370.
(photo credit: Reuters/Amir Cohen)
Israel sold some $7.5 billion in defense products in 2012 – a record high – the
Defense Ministry revealed on Tuesday, but officials voiced concerns that the
coming year could see a slump in sales.
Speaking to reporters at the
Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shmaya Avieli, director of
Defense Export and Defense Cooperation (known by its Hebrew acronym, “Sibat”),
pointed to an ongoing economic downturn as one factor for decreased projected
He added that with the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq coming to
a close, decreased demand for military products by coalition members will have a
significant impact on the global defense industry. Additionally, Europe has a
stated policy of preferring its own defense suppliers.
“Israel is in the
top 10 defense exporters in the world, if not the top five,” Avieli said.
According to figures he unveiled, 25 percent of Israeli defense exports involve
air defense systems, while sales of satellite platforms and radars collectively
made up 24% of the revenue.
Defense exports constitute 10% of Israel’s
total industrial exports, not including diamonds, and 75% of Israeli defense
manufacturing is slated for export to foreign markets. Although there are fears
of a drop, Avieli said he did not expect 2013 to fall short of defense sales in
2011, which recorded some $5.8b. of exports.
The most lucrative market,
Avieli said, was the Asia and Pacific region, where states are preoccupied with
building up their militaries, and where $4b. of Israeli defense products were
purchased in 2012.
Israel recorded $1.64b. of defense sales to Europe,
while US purchases totaled some $1.2b.
As a result of the decision to
shut down an IAF squadron due to cuts in the defense budget, Israel has recently
placed F-16 fighter jets on sale. The Iron Dome anti-rocket system is also on
offer to foreign clients.
“Investment in defense research and development
not only produces returns for Israel’s security and the IDF’s strength, but also
provides a high economic yield, to the benefit of the Israeli market,” Avieli
said. “All of the credit goes to the industries, to the Israeli mind, and to the
good ties Israel has with many states in the world.”
Eshel, head of research and development for the Defense Ministry’s
Administration for the Development of Weapons and Technological Infrastructure
(known as “Mapat“), said the IDF had access to technological solutions – both
operational and under development – to the threat posed by the Russian S-300 air
defense system. Moscow has vowed to complete the sale of the system to Damascus,
which would threaten IAF activities in the region.
Eshel added that the
US is weighing the purchase of Rafael Advanced Defense System’s Trophy tank
protection platform, which offers 360- degree defense against incoming threats
and was first used operationally in 2011 by an IDF tank crew near Gaza. The US
is testing Trophy out on its Ground Combat Vehicle, an armored infantry platform
under development. Trophy “also identifies the source of fire and enables the
tank’s weapon systems to quickly take aim at the source,” Eshel
Israel Aerospace Industries’ subsidiary Elta Systems produces early
warning and control planes; the US is the only other nation to offer such
aircraft. Rafael’s SPICE guided missile system is being sold “around the world,”
Eshel said. He added that Israel is second only to the US in drone production,
noting the dozens of Israeli drone models on sale.
He also mentioned
robotic warfare, including autonomous armored vehicles and small robots for
counter-terrorism missions, as a breakthrough Israeli specialty.