As Europe contends with its huge influx of refugees and terror incidents, Elbit Systems Ltd., Israel’s largest non-government owned defense company, is tuning in and proposing new technologies that have the potential to meet the growing and changing security needs of the continent.
“After many years of hibernation, there is reawakening” of defense spending in Europe, Ran Kril, executive VP of international marketing and business development at Elbit, said at a press conference in Netanya, Israel, ahead of the Eurosatory defense and security exhibition in Paris next week.
“The security needs of Europe are growing” as the continent contends with issues such as an refugees, terror, and Russia and Ukraine, Kril said. “All these are leading to renewed defense spending. Elbit’s portfolio of products knows how to meet these needs.”
Defense spending in Europe is forecast to rise in 2016 for the first time in years, NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with the Financial Times in May. In 2015, NATO’s European partners spent $253 billion on defense, equivalent to 1.43 percent of gross domestic product and well below the 2 percent guideline set by NATO.
Elbit already has a strong presence on the Continent through subsidiaries and joint ventures with leading European defense companies. “We will see more and more projects and our technologies in these countries,” Kril said.
Elbit’s patented SupervisIR system, which it will unveil for the first time at the exhibition, is a new infrared monitoring system that enables army lookouts to get high-resolution and a wider, panoramic view of the areas they need to cover. Using digital imaging and processing technologies, the new surveillance system – which can be used to monitor borders or aerial spaces above cities — can cover a continuous space of about five kilometers (3.1 miles), or the equivalent of approximately 150 thermal images placed side by side. Thermal images are currently used for the same purpose.
“Using the technology in place today, you can monitor just one section of the field at the time, and while you focus on one area you can easily miss something happening in other areas,” said Oded Ben David, VP of thermal systems at Elbit’s ISTAR division. “Our system allows you to monitor a wider range of space at one glance.”
With advanced automatic detection, the system also alerts you to suspicious movement and allows you to get images from different feeds from different areas of interest at the same time. And while the images provide you with a real-time feed of what is happening, these feeds are also recorded and users can backtrack the videos to any point of time.
The system — in practice a box with a camera — can be set up on fixed positions like a mast or a tower or deployed quickly in locations as needed, whether on land, for maritime use, or to identify low flying aerial objects and within a large variety of landscapes. The systems can be remotely operated, including from a laptop or a tablet.
“The product looks very interesting and is very much what we need these days, as the world struggles with terrorists and illegal border crossings,” Gilad Alper, deputy head of research at Exellence Nessuah Brokerage in Petah Tikva, Israel, said in an interview after viewing Elbit’s technology presentation. “Homeland security is a growing market, and by developing these products Elbit is showing us that it is going wherever the market is.”
Another new Elbit product that can be used to help armies monitor borders is a radar system that allows users to detect movement through foliage. “Today foliage is a visually blind spot,” said Rafi Manor, marketing director for radars business unit at Elbit Systems Elisra.
“Technology currently in use cannot detect people if they are hiding in foliage. Our new radar system overcomes that, and just like a cellphone manages to get reception even if you are talking from a bush, so our technology allows users to track movement within foliage,” he said. “This is a game-changing technology.”
The radar can detect movement for tens of meters within foliage, he said.
Elbit has also developed a new helmet-mounted system for commanders and drivers of tanks and armored vehicles called IronVision. The new product allows a 360-degree, high-image view of outside surroundings in day and night in all weather conditions, while allowing the users to stay protected within the vehicle.
The helmet, which uses technology Elbit is already selling to airforces worldwide for helicopter and airplane pilots, collects information from digital sources inside and around the vehicle and allows the user to track movement ranging from a single person standing or crawling several meters near the vehicle to a moving vehicle located 150-300 meters away. The system in practice helps users see what is happening outside the tank while remaining protected under closed hatches.
“Elbit is showing us its portfolio of a new generation of products that are meant to improve traditional surveillance methods and also to meet the challenges of the new combat zones, which are developing through terror in our cities worldwide,” Ella Fried, a senior equity analyst at Bank Leumi-Le Israel Ltd., said in an interview after viewing Elbit’s technologies. “These products have the potential to meet the needs of the new threats Europe is dealing with.”