Plenty has changed in world politics since the last Dubai Airshow back in November 2019. For one thing, based on last year's Abraham Accords agreement, both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain now maintain full diplomatic relations with Israel and so, for the first time ever, Israeli aviation and defense companies are represented at this year’s event.
This marks quite a turnaround from the days when it wasn’t considered acceptable to acknowledge Israel’s contributions to the industry. Now the Israeli industry can actively court new customers and partners in the Gulf region. Saudi Arabia's tacit approval for the Abraham Accords seemingly paves the way to a wider thawing in diplomatic and trading relations between Israel and Arab states, with Morocco and Sudan already in the fold.
Ten Israeli companies are among the exhibitors for this year’s show. They include the country’s largest players in the industry, Israel Aerospace Industries (Stand 300), Rafael (Stand 310, 415), and Elbit Systems (Stand 510) and each is showcasing products and services from multiple divisions in Dubai.
IAI’s exhibit at the show spans its broad portfolio of technologies in both civil and defense domains. On the military side, visitors will be able to learn more about its Multi-Mission Aircraft System, the VTOL unmanned air system developed by the group’s Blue Bird Aero Systems subsidiary, as well as various satellites, electrical optics payloads, and missiles. The group also will showcase its cybersecurity expertise, as well as its maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) capability.
In the wake of unprecedented shifts in air transport demand prompted by the Covid pandemic, IAI’s passenger-to-freighter conversion business has flourished. The company offers several options based on Boeing’s 737 and 777 aircraft.
In August, it announced an agreement with Etihad’s engineering division to establish a conversion and MRO facility in Abu Dhabi. The deal calls for conversions of the 777-300ER to be certified by the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority, as well as by the FAA and EASA.
“IAI is excited to build and broaden cooperation with UAE partners and other local defense vendors, and use the momentum of the Abraham Accords to broaden levels of co-development and co-production of systems that will cater to the needs of our Emirati customers and give them added value when facing the challenges posed by the modern battlefield and world of aviation,” the company said in a statement about its presence in Dubai. “IAI sees the UAE as a strategic partner, and our cooperation will help build a safer and stronger Middle East.”
One IAI subsidiary with a high profile at the Dubai show is Elta Systems. The company is showcasing its expertise in areas such as air defense radars, special mission aircraft, airborne radar, signals intelligence and electronic warfare, and command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence systems.
Among the company’s more recent innovations is the ELI-4030 Drone Guard multi-sensor package developed to protect against threats from unmanned air systems. The equipment includes an active electronically-scanning phased array radar, jammers for communications and intelligence systems, as well as remote control and GPS/Glonass. It can accurately measure height to discriminate between ground and air targets.
Rafael also is showcasing a wide array of military capabilities that could be of great interest to Gulf states in view of regional tensions. Possibly the most topical is the Drone Dome system that detects and neutralizes hostile unmanned air vehicles (UAVs), providing protection against attacks such as the July 2021 incident in which a drone, allegedly operated by Iranian forces, damaged an oil tanker off the coast of Oman.
With its 360-deg circular coverage, Drone Dome can detect and block no-fly zone incursions by micro- and nano-sized UAVs. According to Rafael, it can respond to threats very rapidly and causes minimal collateral interruptions to other air traffic in surrounding airspace.
Also on display from the Rafael technology portfolio is the RecceLite day/night electro-optical tactical reconnaissance pod for real-time imagery collection and data transfer. The self-contained and self-cooled, multi-sensor system consists of an airborne payload, a digital data link, and a ground exploitation station.
The Litening multispectral airborne targeting pod resulting from the partnership between Rafael and Northrop Grumman enhances the cognitive capability of fighter pilots, enabling them to perform complex missions. The pod handles automatic threat detection, target tracking, location extraction, and pinpointing.
Rafael’s Spike NLOS (non-line-of-sight) and Spyder (surface-to-air python and derby) missile systems are also now available to the military forces of Israel’s new allies in the Gulf region. Spike, the result of a collaboration with Lockheed Martin, is a fifth-generation precision electro-optical-guided standoff weapon, while Spyder is a quick reaction, low-level surface-to-air missile to counter attacks by aircraft, helicopters, UAVs, and precision-guided munitions. Rafael is also exhibiting its BNET battlefield radio system and Imilite intelligence unit for processing and exploiting multiple inputs of video imagery and data.
Other Israeli exhibitors include military avionics and electronic warfare specialist Astronautics (Stand 103), systems integrator NIR-OR (Stand 100), artificial intelligence, blockchain, and cyber security specialist Sinbad (Pavilion V32), and military loitering systems provider UVision Air (Stand 892). Israel’s Ministry of Defense is also represented through its SIBAT International Defense Cooperation Directorate.