Battle management systems are designed to cut through the “fog of war” by tracking unit location and passing data, so friendly units and command centers can keep track of what’s going on. These BMS systems-of-systems change the kinds of operations commanders can plan and execute, and also reduce the risk of friendly fire.
The US Army’s FBCB2 system is colloquially known as “Blue Force Tracker,” after the component that shows the location of all friendly forces and identified enemies on a digital map, and allows the exchange of messages and data. Allied armies without such systems find it difficult to work with the Americans, and Australia’s DoD has faced criticism over this gap. That began to change in March 2010, when Israel’s Elbit Systems Ltd. won a major contract for Australia’s LAND 75 Phase 3.4 (Battle Management System) and LAND 125 Soldier Combat System Phase 3 programs…
In December 2006, Australia bought a new tactical UAV to go with the Israeli Skylark mini-UAV. Australian Minister of Defence Senator Hill said the Government had agreed to the A$ 145 million (USD $109 million) UAV project to provide its Army with a high precision day and night surveillance and targeting capability.
The initial winner was IAI’s short-range I-View Mk. 250 UAV, but that didn’t last. Issues with the platform led to contract cancellation, and the use of leased solutions as interim options on the front lines. JP129 didn’t go away, though. Australia was still interested in owning a tactical UAV solution, and events in Afghanistan upped the urgency level. Finally, an August 2010 deal got them their JP129 UAVs.
The Israeli Air Force has known since December 2008 that its fleet of A-4 Skyhawk jet trainers and light attack aircraft would leave service. It took until July 2012 to sign a contract for the Skyhawk’s successor, despite justifiable complaints from South Korea that the process lacked full professional formality. The first M-346 Master trainers should begin arriving in Israel around mid-2014, where they will be operated by the IAI/Elbit “TOR” joint venture as a public-private partnership service to the IAF.
Italy’s M-346 eventually beat KAI’s supersonic T-50, thanks to a combination of air force evaluations, geo-political considerations, and countervailing industrial offers. For most countries, “industrial offsets” mean sub-contracting work in their country, sometimes even in sectors of their economy outside of the defense industry. Israel’s weapons industry is far more developed, however, and so their advanced trainer competition saw “industrial offsets” as the purchase of full-fledged Israeli weapons systems. South Korea was already a customer for Israeli radars, UAVs, and missiles, and was seen as the favorite thanks to their relationships and their jet. Italy was a much smaller customer, but relations between Silvio Berlusconi and the Jewish state had been good for a long time. By October 2011, reports surfaced that Italy had made Israel a very impressive offer – one that would make Italy a major export customer for strategic systems, even as it equalized purchases on both sides. In the end, it was an offer the Israelis couldn’t, and didn’t, refuse.
In June 2008, they secured the contract. That began a combination of infrastructure build-out, aircraft modification, and managed competition, aimed at fulfilling a contract estimated at up to GBP 6 billion (about $11.7 billion)… when it was signed. It’s hard to evaluate that number until Britain finally buys its training aircraft and associated training service, and as of 2012, they haven’t even put out the RFP.
In June 2012, Elbit Systems Ltd. announced a $62 million contract to upgrade the South Korean ROKAF’s 12 C-130H and stretched C-130H-30 transport aircraft. The 4-year project will be performed in conjunction with Korea’s KAI, and will give the aircraft a modern cockpit and communications electronics, including a “glass cockpit” whose digital displays will replace many of the crew’s analog gauges. Elbit did not mention whether the upgrades would give the ROKAF’s planes full Global Air Traffic Management clearance to fly in civil airspace past 2015.
A number of countries are busy modifying their older C-130s with modern avionics, which can be a rather involved and expensive undertaking. The USA canceled its own C-130 AMP program over cost issues, while Sweden completed a similar program of avionics modernization and civil GATM clearance for its fleet. Elbit itself already had experience with cockpit upgrades for Romania’s C-130 Hercules fleet, and for Brazil’s C-95 Badeirante transports. They even have some experience with the ROKAF’s Hercules fleet, as a 2009 contract had already equipped the aircraft with Israeli self-defense electronics.
“In 2001, Elbit Systems began work under contracts for the Brazilian F-5 Aircraft Modernization Program. The program calls for the upgrade of 46 F-5 aircraft for the Brazilian Air Force. Our contracts for the program are with Embraer and the Brazilian Government, with a total value of approximately $230 million to be performed over an eight-year period. The contract with Embraer provides for an avionics upgrade, which includes an EW suite, mission computers, helmet mounted system, radar, displays and other avionics products. Delivery of production aircraft began in 2005. In January 2007, Elbit Systems was awarded an additional order to integrate further advanced capabilities in the F-5 aircraft. The contract with the Brazilian Government covers a logistic support program including establishment of an in-country maintenance center based at AEL.”
Brazil’s F-5BR upgrade program creates F-5EM and F-5FM aircraft.
M7 Aerospace became an Elbit Systems of America subsidiary in December 2010. Its 6 integrated business segments include Aerostructures Manufacturing; Government Logistics Support Services; Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul; Engineering Services; Aircraft Parts & Support and Supply Chain Management and Purchasing. Their platform specialties include the Shorts Aircraft series of short take-off light transports (incl. US Army’s C-23), and Fairchild’s Merlin & Metro (US C-26 variants).
The US military continues to operate variants of these aircraft, and M7’s strong position in those niches has led to a number of contract wins. A pair of December 2011 support contracts, dating back to FY 2005 and FY 2009, illustrate the point…
Elbit Systems of America, LLC in Fort Worth, TX has been producing F-16 related components for over 2 decades; indeed, that’s how the US subsidiary got its start in the aviation market. It wasn’t a huge stretch, as Israel’s F-16s contain a lot of Israeli electronics. That expertise has translated into service and export sales, including production in and for the F-16’s original home market.
Elbit Systems of America, LLC recently announced a $38.5 million, 5-year, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity from the US Defense Logistics Agency-Ogden, with $3 million in initial orders. In return, they’ll supply Electronic Module Assemblies (EMA) for Wide Angle Conventional Head- Up Displays (WAC-HUDs), to equip all USAF F-16C/D Block 30 and Block 50 cockpits. Elbit says that their new design is the result of a partnership with the USAF, adding that the result reduces total part count, lowers power consumption, and significantly improves mean time between failures (MTBF). All of which translates into lower life-cycle costs.
In September 2010, Elbit Systems Ltd. announced a $280 million communications modernization contract from the Israeli Ministry of Defense. About $140 million will be invested in new communications equipment over the next 5 years, with the other $140 million paid over 20 years to upgrade and maintain existing systems. Per Israeli requirements, a key part of the project will be performed in a “development area” (here, the Southern Israeli city of Arad), as part of the Israeli Government’s policy to develop industries in the periphery. Elbit Systems.
Israel has been implementing its Tsayad/DAP next-generation communications system over the last few years, in order to enable its different military branches to communicate more easily. It is currently nearing the end of Phase 1, and Elbit is the main contractor. This is not formally part of DAP, but it is complementary. Elbit and its subsidiary Tadiran Communications offer a wide range of radios, military computers, satellite terminals, and even battlefield command and control systems to the global marketplace. While they may lack the size and heft of Harris or Thales, they compete aggressively across a very wide range of systems, and have received substantial foreign orders.
In September 2011, Elbit Systems announced a 4-year, $40 million Israeli contract for its Soltam Systems Ltd. subsidiary’s “Cardom” (Eng. “Hatchet”) 120mm mortar systems. Built around Soltam’s 120mm recoil mortar system, Cardom can be fitted to any medium armored vehicle, offering advanced fire control, navigation, and automatic aiming/pointing capabilities. The USA uses it in wheeled M1129 Stryker MC APCs, for instance, though many elements can also be found in M1064 variants of the tracked M113.
Israel has used Keshet (Eng. “Bow”) M113 tracked APC(armored personnel carrier) variants as their Cardom platform, since the system was deployed with the Nahal Infantry Brigade in 2007. The recent arrival of precision 120mm mortar shells, such as IAI’s Fireball, or ATK’s APMI, adds precision to the 120mm mortar’s traditional virtues of simplicity and low cost. That’s especially important for armies who want to use mortar fire in urban combat, but wish to limit civilian casualties.