Trade alliance connects Israeli tech to UAS conference
By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer
David Fagelston’s Jerusalem-based company, AccuBeat, plays a critical role in protecting Israel’s citizens. AccuBeat provides the atomic clock technology used in the Iron Dome system, which shielded Israelis from more than 4,000 rockets fired by Hamas terrorists during this summer’s war with Hamas.
On day 49 of Israel’s Operation Protective Edge — Aug. 25 — Fagelston is in Dayton to participate in Ohio’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Conference at the Dayton Convention Center.
He made the trip, his first to Dayton, “to see how we can try to increase our business here in the states.”
Fagelston is among representatives of a dozen Israeli-based tech firms at this year’s Ohio UAS conference who hope to expand into U.S. defense and commercial markets.
Most of the Israeli firms were recruited to participate in the conference by Hadas Bar-Or, the Dayton Region Israel Trade Alliance (DRITA) representative in Tel Aviv. Dayton and Montgomery County comprise the only region in Ohio with its own trade representative in Israel.
“Our main customer is the U.S. Army,” says Efraim Tzafrir of Haifa-based Ci-Systems at a dinner DRITA hosts for the Israelis at the Dayton Crowne Plaza the evening before the three-day conference begins. “And the second one is the U.S. Navy. But unfortunately, not enough with the U.S. Air Force, so that’s why I’m here. Wright-Patterson is the main research center and the main place for decisions about what the U.S. Air Force is going to buy.”
Ci-Systems specializes in UAS simulation and electro-optics. It also runs a production facility in California since it sells about half of its products in the United States, Tzafrir says.
Mike Retallick, the site rep in Dayton for Elbit Systems of America — a subsidiary of Haifa-based Elbit Systems — opened his one-person office here three years ago.
“We have one of our birds, about 18 pounds, set up at the convention center,” Retallick says.
Elbit is one of Israel’s three largest defense contractors.
“We were looking for the opportunities in the Dayton area for Elbit as far as our technologies and how these technologies can be either in DOD or in the commercial market,” Retallick says. “I work a lot with the county commissioners (and the) University of Dayton Research Institute.”
He says his role to create new opportunities for Elbit begins with taking the technologies Elbit develops in Israel and evolving them into products.
“Very rarely can I take a product that already exists and make it fit into the market,” Retallick says. “My job, specifically being here, is to work with industry and labs and create those opportunities. These opportunities that are created in Dayton with the commercial sector are something that is new for Elbit.”
Retallick encouraged Yuval Chaplain, director of major campaign marketing for Elbit Systems of America, to come from Ft. Worth to the UAS conference.
“He’s the bridge for bringing those technologies,” Retallick says. “I said (to Chaplain), ‘You need to come here. You need to see what’s going on in Dayton.’”
Less optimistic about peace prospects
As hopeful as the Israelis are about expanding their markets in the United States via Ohio, those present express less optimism about the challenges facing the Jewish state following this summer’s war with Hamas and the continuing threat from the terrorist organization in Gaza.
“I don’t know how things will play out,” Fagelston says. “I’m not a prophet. The situation has been ongoing for almost 14 years. It’s just intensified over the past few weeks, much more than ever before.”
Fagelston says Israel’s defense establishment didn’t realize how extensive and dangerous Hamas’ network of tunnels would be.
“I have a son who was called up but wasn’t needed in the end,” he says, “and a son-in-law who’s full-time in the army, in the career army. He’s in charge of new recruits at the moment, so he wasn’t involved in the action. He would like to have been, but we’re happy as a family that he wasn’t.”
He says his neighbors’ sons and sons-in-law were injured badly on the first day.
“And I don’t see an end to the situation as such,” Fagelston says. “But there will be another few years of relative calm and it will happen again.”
Tzafrir says there is no solution to the current situation, and won’t be one “for at least one or two generations.” He thinks peace could eventually rise out of economic opportunities, “like building companies or building factories or sources of employment” for the residents of Gaza.
“I always tell this story that in 2006 my city was hit by 80 missiles a day. That was in Haifa. I was talking with our facility in the states. And I talked to the manager and said, ‘Oh, there is an alarm. Wait.’ And then we continued talking. And he said, ‘Let me understand: there are missiles falling over your head and you continue talking while there are missiles?’ I said, ‘Yeah, why not?’ It was a kind of shock, but that’s our story. That’s our life. We have to live with that.”