IAI diversifies portfolio to shore up civil downturn
As was true of much of the industry, Israel Aerospace Industries saw a fairly steep dip in sales during 2009, largely due to a marked softening in demand on the civil side of its business. Published financial results for the first three quarters of 2009 showed sales slipping by about 25 percent on 2008 and there were few signs that the fourth quarter numbers will have reversed this trend.
IAI chairman Yair Shamir has told AIN that the group does not expect to see a recovery in the civil aerospace sector until 2011. But the group’s exposure to this historic downturn has been reduced by its broad product portfolio, which also has strong foundations in the defense and security sectors. Ahead of the publication of full 2009 results next month, Shamir disclosed that IAI came out of last year with an order backlog valued at $8.1 billion–equivalent to around 2.7 years of sales.
Shamir said that IAI is pursuing further diversification by moving into new areas such as energy-generating wind turbines. He also indicated that the group is trying to engage in partnerships with civil aerospace companies in the Asia-Pacific region.
This diverse offering is much in evidence in the IAI exhibit here at the Singapore Airshow. Prominent on the IAI display are the company’s growing family of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including a model of the latest Heron TP, an advanced medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV.
IAI is also exhibiting its ELINT- and COMINT-based radars, as well as satellite communications technology, including a model of the EL/I-3150 multi-mission aircraft and a mockup of the airborne integrated signal intelligence system installed on a Gulfstream V. Another model depicts a Boeing 767 air-to-air refueling aircraft.
The IAI exhibit also focuses on a selection of the company’s plug-in optronic payloads (POP), including the mini POP and the micro POP, as well as a laser homing attack laser-guided missile. In the training area of the display, there is a tactical helicopter rehearsal autonomous safety and training system (THRUST).
Shamir said that the next five years will see IAI enter or expand into the fields of UAVs, intelligence sensors and platforms, aerial defense and homeland security. One possible new program now being discussed with prospective clients is a plan to convert manned helicopters into UAVs using IAI’s helicopter modification suites (HEMoS).
Governments in the Asia-Pacific region are continuing to invest in areas such as homeland security and are also trying to bolster their ability to deal with natural disasters, such as the 2004 tsunami, for which many of them were woefully unprepared. IAI sees this trend as a major opportunity in a region in which it is already well established.
“Our UAVs provide advanced, sophisticated solutions, in both the civilian and defense applications, and are well known for their high quality and reliability,” claimed Shamir. “They are indispensable in cases of natural disaster as support for search-and-rescue efforts, as well as in national defense. They are a crucial tool in border and shore patrol for challenges such as drug trafficking and other smuggling concerns.
“During a natural disaster, there are two major requirements: quick response and accurate, real-time data from the disaster site,” continued Shamir. “IAI’s advanced homeland security solutions fulfill both of these needs. The systems were built and designed for anti-terrorism applications and to address the needs of natural disasters. IAI offers UAVs for search and rescue, command and control systems, and robotic systems, as well as state-of-the-art situation rooms, that integrate data flow taken from various sensors, cameras and other sources to efficiently present data to decision makers.”
In South Korea, IAI is set to start fulfilling a recent contract to supply radar and air defense systems over the next few years. Shamir said the company views the country as a key partner and is looking to advance joint development with South Korean firms of technologies such as UAVs, intelligence, maritime and refueling systems.
IAI also has a strong pedigree in providing upgrade packages for existing military aircraft. For instance, it is now supplying a full glass cockpit avionics suite for the Dhruv helicopter being developed by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. The avionics, built to the specifications of India’s armed forces, include digital displays and controls, day/night observation capability, a targeting system and various options for flexible armaments.
Another upgrade offering is for Russian Mi-24/35 helicopters to improve their capability for night operations. This includes IAI’s helicopter multi-mission optronic stabilized payload (HMOSP) for day/night observation and targeting, as well as night-vision goggles and a helmet-mounted display. The upgraded cockpits are fitted with multifunction displays for video recording, flight data, navigation and targeting. Also new is a chaff and flare countermeasures dispensing system mounted on the tail of the aircraft.
IAI is also offering a complete new combat system suite for navy helicopters engaged in anti-surface ship and submarine operations, as well as electronic intelligence. The suite incorporates a variety of its sensors for radar, electronic warfare and electro-optical functions, as well as missiles and torpedoes, and systems covering navigation, in addition to command, control, communications, computing and intelligence (C4I) functions.
In the field of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, the group has developed a range of electro-optic sensors, ground-movement target indicators and synthetic-aperture radars that are small enough to be used on either manned or unmanned aircraft. It is seeing increasing interest from the Asia-Pacific region for the technology it can supply for medium-range maritime patrol and airborne early warning aircraft.