The most prominent characteristic of the 2017 Paris Air Show was security. The indications of the particularly strict security measures became evident in the long queues at the entrances to Le Bourget Airport, where the massive show takes place every two years, for more than a hundred years now (almost without interruption). The Israeli compound was surrounded by an additional, special security loop. Random visitors could not enter it unless they had made prior arrangements.
Not just at the Air Show: the recent terrorist attacks in Europe have evolved into an almost daily, lifestyle-changing phenomenon. The crop of the last few days: a vehicle ramming attack at the heart of Champs-Élysées in Paris, an explosive charge attack prevented at the very last moment in Brussels, and a vehicle ramming attack in London – this time aimed at Muslims.
Throughout Paris, tourist attractions have evolved into fortified localities, including the Eiffel Tower, under which tourists can no longer stand. Everywhere, parcel and body searches have become a normal procedure – as they have been in Israel for decades. The French soldiers are particularly prominent. They are young, 18-20, and omnipresent in the streets and parks, marching in groups of 6-10 with weapons at the ready.
Professionals tend to distinguish between actual security and the “sense of security,” which is the manner in which people conceive their personal security, even when they do not assess the situation correctly. The military patrols in the streets of Paris, just like those we experienced for a while during a peak period of terrorist attacks back in 2002 (contrary to the police patrols, which are present at all times), contribute very little to security and their contribution to the “sense of security” might even be negative.
The French troopers appear to be inadequately prepared opposite the amorphous enemy that they might or might not be facing. The friction between the military presence and the civilians is highly problematic. For example, when I used my smartphone to photograph a group of soldiers at the heart of Paris, they exchanged some words among themselves and then their leader approached me and demanded emphatically that I delete the photographs. I did not argue, although that demand was clearly illegal. Israeli soldiers operating in the territories, unlike their French counterparts, are briefed to take into account the fact that every move they make might be documented. In France, the situation is completely new and unfamiliar.
What Propels the Industry?
Back to the Air Show: with all due respect to Israeli technology, the new aircraft drew most of the attendants’ attention. The airport situated alongside the massive exhibition is where the aircraft depart from to perform impressive aerial displays. On the ground, thousands of people were busy holding business meetings. Business is what really counts.
One of the platforms that attracted everyone’s attention was the modern US fighter aircraft F-35, IAF designation “Adir.” The manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, brought along their chief test pilot to perform the first public flight demonstration of this aircraft, regarded as a “fifth generation” fighter not because of its aerodynamic capabilities (which are not unique), but rather because of its ability to evade the opponent’s Radar screens and collect intelligence on a massive scale from a very high altitude.
Sources at Lockheed Martin were proud to note that the Israeli Air Force, the first air force outside the USA to take delivery of the new F-35 fighter, has already trained not less than two generals to fly the new fighter: the present commandant of the IAF who’s about to conclude his term, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, and the next commandant, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin. Eshel has already flown the new aircraft not less than ten times. Norkin is expected to fly it a lot.
Another impressive demonstration was performed by the French-built Dassault Rafale fighter – a modern descendant of the Mirage fighter, remembered so fondly in Israel. This delta-wing aircraft (the Rafale has a similar wing configuration to the one the Mirage had back in the day) has recently been purchased by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. India is another major client.
Against the background of the displays of the huge military aircraft, veteran Israeli aviation expert and reporter Tamir Eshel noted an interesting phenomenon: the largest amount of modern aircraft comes, of all categories, from the category of very small aircraft, both manned and unmanned. This prospering market segment is not propelled by massive defense budgets, but rather by the on-line commerce and transportation corporations, like Uber and Amazon, which seek the perfect future solution for mass public transport and for fast shipping and delivery. Apparently, commercial needs propel today’s technology just as effectively as military needs.
The Israeli Eye in the Sky
In Israel, the defense industries are still highly dominant. Among the myriad of Israeli developments unveiled for the first time at the Paris Air Show, of particular interest was the introduction of Elbit Systems’ SkEye. It is doubtful whether many visitors to the exhibition noted the announcements regarding this system, but it is essential to emphasize that this system may help to prevent quite a few terrorist attacks.
In fact, this system is an original Israeli development that enables video recording of everything that takes place within a huge area cell, with an option of going back along the time dimension (for example, in order to find out where a terrorist who attempted to stage an attack had come from exactly).
Elad Aharonson, Elbit Systems’ Executive VP & GM ISTAR Division, was authorized, for the first time ever, to speak about the SkEye system, and told reporters in Paris that “The system covers an area of 80 square kilometers. It videotapes the area continuously at a very high resolution. This massive amount of information is stored in the system’s servers as long as the system is airborne, and then it may be cross-referenced with any other information.
“The recording is of the utmost importance. For example, even two weeks after the actual videotaping, the footage may be accessed in order to check intelligence information obtained in retrospect.”
In addition to generating tremendous interest at the Paris Air Show, the SkEye system has already been sold to military forces of countries that are particularly friendly to Israel.
The Multi-Million Tender: the Final Decision
And now, for something completely different: a few days ago, IMOD officials opened the envelopes of the bids for the massive tender regarding the technological management of the project of relocating the IDF to the Negev. This project involves the relocation, over the next decade, of the entire database of the IDF technological units, and the technological units themselves, from locations such as Ramat-HaSharon to the Beersheba area. The scope of the tender is hundreds of millions of ILS over a period of 9 years.
The major bidders for this tender were groups that included, among others, such companies as Elbit Systems, Bynet, Sisco and General Dynamics; EMC, IBM, Rafael, Motorola, Security Links and Teldor – and that is just a partial list. The results of the tender will be published by IMOD very soon. It is estimated that the winners of the massive tender will be IAI in cooperation with Leidos (formerly a division of Lockheed Martin) and TSG, who submitted the lowest bid.
Additionally, a massive construction tender associated with the relocation of the IDF to the south is expected to be completed soon. The bidders consist mainly of major construction companies such as Shapir Engineering & Manufacturing, the AFI Group (Africa-Israel) and Shikun & Binui (the Arison Group).