the original Article on the Jpost website
Israel puts the designs on Paris Air Show
By MARC DAUGHERTY
Business is booming, said nearly all of Israel's aerospace and defense officials present at this year's Paris Air Show. Le Bourget is the premier venue for the world's aerospace industries, and the place for defense officials to mix, mingle and poke around.
Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) says it expects a backlog of about $11 billion, an impressive 12% increase over 2004. CEO Moshe Keret attributes the growing orders to burgeoning cooperation agreements with the United States, Asia and Europe (which is about to become Israel's second-largest defense and aerospace export market).
"We are also trying to deepen our cooperation because of common needs and interests," said Keret.
Israel is keen on expanding its European footprint, and France appears to be its improbable new defense research and marketing partner.
"France fully acknowledges Israel's experience in the development of advanced pilotless aircraft. We strongly feel France must rapidly close the large gap existing between us and the Americans in this field," said Francois Moysan to The Jerusalem Post. Moysan is a project engineer for the French Defense Ministry Armaments Directorate. Moysan also said IAI would team up with European defense giant EADS in a new $350 million French contract for the joint development of EuroMALE - a high-altitude, long-range, wide-body drone.
"EuroMALE will be offered to a consortium of EU states, some of which have already announced their intention to participate in the project. These include Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden," Moysan added
The EuroMALE is a 26-meter-wide version of the IAI Eagle I and II drones sold to France between 2002 and 2004, and will carry 600 kg of cameras and radars, compared to the Eagle's 250 kg.
IAI's corporate vice president Doron Suslik also confirmed reports in France's Liberation daily that French engineers are currently stationed at IAI to work on the EuroMALE.
Further, trained eyes couldn't fail to notice the French Sperwer drone armed with two Israeli RAFAEL Spike precision guided anti-tank missiles. While both Israeli and French government officials kept mum on this project, RAFAEL spokeswoman Gila Harel confirmed that "RAFAEL is working on the armed version of the Sperwer with French defense contractor Sagem." Sagem plans to offer the armed drone to existing Sperwer users such as the Netherlands and France.
Harel also confirmed reports in Flight International saying that RAFAEL and IAI has agreed with the French government to develop advanced micro-satellites. Such satellites would use a plasma beam of ionized gas for propulsion.
Another trend confirmed at Le Bourget is Israel's strategy of increasing its civilian aviation market share. IAI has signed a contract to supply US manufacturer Vought with $500 million in parts for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, a fuel-efficient, long-haul passenger jet.
In addition, IAI sources unveiled plans to develop the world's first unmanned cargo plane. The twin-boom, twin-engine transport would carry several tons of freight, be 20 meters long, and have a nearly 30-meter wingspan. Indeed, pilotless planes might replace manned aircraft for such civilian assignments. Australian unmanned air vehicle maker Aerosonde also displayed a model of a drone it hopes will make the world's first trans-Atlantic pilotless parcel delivery, along with NASA.
However, Israeli and French executives stressed that problems remain, as flying pilotless cargo planes over populated areas will undoubtedly pose regulatory problems.
Also prominently on display was the Javelin light trainer jet, which has already landed 90 orders in the US, according to US designer George Bye, CEO of ATG, which will manufacture the Javelin jointly with IAI.
As older jet trainers get more expensive to maintain, the Javelin will become more and more attractive. Analysts expect a market of nearly 4,000 trainer jets worldwide as air forces retire obsolete and expensive-to-run planes such as the IAF's Fougas.
Finally, all Israeli defense executives stressed that no military projects with the US have been placed on hold because of tensions over Israeli arms exports to China. Some, however, expressed fears that Washington might impose sanctions if the crisis isn't resolved soon. Elbit's Menahem Barkav confirmed that programs to fit American F-16, F-15, F-18E/F and F-22 fighters with Elbit's Joint Mounted Helmet Cuing System (JMHCS) are on track. The JMHCS, a helmet-mounted air combat display, is supplied to the US via Elbit's American partner Rockwell.