Expanding opportunities at Wright-Patt for Israeli tech

An interview with Elbit Systems of America CEO Raanan I. Horowitz

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

On April 7, Elbit Systems of America President and CEO Raanan I. Horowitz visited Wright-Patterson AFB materiel command leaders and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Mobility, Fighter and Bomber Directorates. Based in Fort Worth, Texas, Elbit Systems of America is a subsidiary of Elbit Systems Ltd., Israel’s largest defense contractor. An example of Elbit’s high-tech offerings is the sensor-based detection system it just developed to locate tunnels on Israel’s border with Gaza. The U.S. Air Force accounts for about 30 percent of Elbit’s U.S. defense contracts.

What brings you to Dayton?
The Dayton location is very key. We really started investing in the last few years in developing this relationship. And with that, of course, Mike (Retallick, Elbit’s director of strategic marketing in Dayton) has done fabulous in starting to develop relationships with the community and with universities and everything around it. So this is part of an overall strategy to really establish ourselves as a contributor, as a player.

Our entire business model was built on leveraging Israeli technologies, Israeli innovation and bringing it over here and leveraging it for the applications. That’s the core. On top of it, we’re looking these days at different opportunities for commercializing some of the technology. We’ve talked about how can we apply UAS (unmanned aerial systems) to the commercial market space. I think there’s still quite a lot of regulatory challenges around that. So we’ll walk carefully into that, because you just don’t know what you can do still. There’s great potential in that. I think this community here has the anchor with the Air Force and the Air Force Research Labs but at the same time universities, the research communities — the climate to really do business.

What tangibles do you hope to bring away from your meetings today?
There are definitely several opportunities for us to expand. We have significant content and contribution to the F-16, on the F-35, we, in partnership with Rockwell Collins, are doing the monitor display system. So we really have a lot of good presence on some platforms. I think that we can bring more value to the Air Force in upgrading, in bringing more technology insertion into some of their older platforms.

A good example of some Israeli innovation and technology we clearly have advanced significantly using computer technology (is) something called embedded virtual avionics. In a future training aircraft the Air Force is going to use, with computers and computer graphics, you can make the aircraft think it has different sensors. You can simulate different scenarios and threats. This vast application is to reduce the cost of training so you don’t have to put up targets. And by the way, it also has applications in the commercial market space to be able to train, more effectively, pilots in different scenarios. So that’s something we’re promoting, we’re pushing for.

Because Israel is such a small place and they have so many challenges across the board — security, economics, everything else — you end up with companies like Elbit developing a portfolio of products and technology that is vast.

People don’t realize, in these platforms and many others, how much Elbit is inside: if it’s the helmet monitor display system on the F-35, which you can’t fly the aircraft without, if it’s the core heart of the Apache helicopter, the mission processor, the brains of it is Elbit’s. Laser-guided capabilities, a lot of the seekers are being designed and built by us in our facility in Ft. Worth, Texas. Eighty percent of the cockpit on a V-22 is done by us.

With the tensions between the U.S. president and Israel’s prime minister, do you think that will play out in the U.S. defense work you’re trying to get?
It’s a complicated question. We’re not concerned with any specific policy change or anything that is going to be intentional. I think that the underlying relationship at the working level between the Department of Defense and the Israeli Ministry of Defense — and the business relationships — are strong and solid. I am concerned with an underlying tone of the tension, and how it may influence individuals making decisions or willing to do certain things, the business of relationships. That definitely is a concern. So far, we have not felt any of that. Because I think that Americans — in the military or in the industry — have great respect for the technology that we bring in.

To read the complete May 2015 Dayton Jewish Observer, click here.

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