Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced Israel will start production of N-95 masks in preparation for a second wave of Covid-19. So far, the country has recorded 17,700 cases and 300 deaths, allowing for over 120 schools to reopen throughout May. However, since then, several hundred students and staff tested positive leading to the self-quarantine of over 17,000 people in contact with the infected.
President Reuven Rivlin visited Elbit Systems land division complex on June 3, touring an assembly line and various weapons programs. The Israeli defense contractor is “a shining example of Israeli creativity” President Rivlin stated. Elbit is temporarily shifting from its usual production of military technology in order to develop portable ventilators and communication systems to help fight the coronavirus.
A London-based Arabic newspaper reported that Benny Gantz may visit Amman to discuss Israel’s annexation plans. The office of the defense minister has not confirmed the report. Jordan’s prime minister and foreign minister said they will reconsider “all aspects of our relations with Israel,” including the peace treaty if the annexation proceeds.
Since the Palestinian Authority ended security cooperation with Israel, the organization has stopped applying for permits that enable Palestinian medical visits to Israel. The situation is critical for patients in Gaza who need the help of their officials in order to get treated in Israel. Palestinians in the West Bank can directly apply to the Israeli District Coordination and Liaison Office. Before the coronavirus outbreak, between 2,200 and 2,500 people would go daily from Gaza to Israel for treatment. Following the outbreak of Covid-19, only about 160 Gazans a day visited Israel for medical treatment, decreasing to an average of five people a day without new permits.
Israeli Military Technology
Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced on June 6 that it had developed a mathematical model that predicts the future condition of coronavirus patients. The model applies artificial intelligence, big data, and machine learning technologies on information stored on a Sheba Medical Center database. The technology will help medical workers flag a deterioration in the medical condition of a coronavirus patient earlier than previously possible.
IAI successfully tested its Long-Range Artillery Weapons System (LORA) missile, which can operate as both a ground-to-ground and sea-to-ground trajectory. Two LORA missiles were launched at sea both of which reached their targets 56 miles away and 249 miles away respectively.
Elbit Systems and Roboteam unveiled their first joint project, an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) designed to extend the capabilities of infantry units. The “Torch Powered Robot” weighs about 150 lbs and is equipped with an electro-optical/infrared camera system, GPS, as well as a variety of other sensors. The UK Defense Ministry plans to acquire four of the vehicles.
Tomer, a state-owned start-up, finished its first year as an independent company with $94 million in sales. The company employs 540 people and is in charge of the first and second stages of Israel’s satellite launcher. Tomer is in discussion with both the U.S. and Japan to sell its rocket engines. If talks are successful this would be the company’s first foreign sale.
The Israel Innovation Authority approved a $43 million budget that will fuel three R&D consortia for three years. Elbit Systems and IAI lead the first consortium, which will focus on developing technologies for autonomous vehicles in urban areas. The second and third associations will focus on industrial material processing using high-powered lasers and quantum communication technologies respectively.
Foreign Military Sales
The U.S. Army deployed Smart Shooter’s SMASH 2000, an advanced electronic aiming system designed to take down small unmanned aerial vehicles, abroad for the first time. The U.S. Army attached the scope of its M4A1 carbines with soldiers who are stationed in Syria. The IDF also equips its troops with the technology.
An undisclosed European country agreed on a $350 million deal with IAI for a special mission aircraft conversion. Under the contract, IAI will repurpose a high-performance business jet for a special mission such as early warning and control, air to ground missions, maritime patrol, or signal intelligence.
The U.S. Army announced it will conduct testing of two Iron Dome batteries scheduled for delivery in December 2020 and February 2021. Some army officials expressed concern that the system can’t be successfully integrated into existing army infrastructure. According to U.S. lawmakers familiar with the program, acquiring Israeli technology may provide a temporary solution until the army develops an indigenous program.
IAI received the first Boeing 777-300ER from GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) for the passenger-to-freighter conversion. This conversion is set to start the “Big Twin” program announced last October where commercial airplanes are modified to become freighters. GECAS is committed to 15 additional orders of the 777-300ER as well as 15 additional optional orders. Richard Greener, the senior vice president and manager of GECAS said “this aircraft sets out to meet requirements of the air cargo industry for the next 20 years.”
Israel donated medical supplies to the Philippines on June 3, which included 50,000 medical gloves, 30,000 surgical masks, 30,000 N95 masks, 4,500 medical gowns, and 1,500 face shields.
Jewish Policy Center intern Sacha Warnod compiled this report.