Towards a Safer Tomorrow: Israeli Defence Technology Sets a Global Precedent

27/11/2011 15:20 GMT | Updated 25/01/2012 10:12 GMT

The defence of a country's citizens has always been of perennial importance for governments across the world. Yet, in recent times, the international community has seen a plethora of new threats emerge. These threats are harder to detect and prevent, and are more sophisticated than any we have faced in human history. Thus, perhaps unsurprisingly, today's global defence expenditure is believed to be in excess of $1.6 trillion.

Leading the way in developing technologies to make our world a safer place is a country famed for its ingenuity and technological brilliance. Israel is no stranger to all manner of threats, and this has spurred extraordinary strides in the development of its defence technologies. These advances have in turn given rise to a seemingly voracious global demand for Israeli products. Last year alone, sales by the country's defence companies totalled just over $7 billion.

Typically, when we think of 'defence technology', we tend to picture larger, more 'high-profile' hardware. It is well established that Israel certainly boasts this sophisticated technology in abundance. But the country also distinguishes itself in smaller niche spheres, which are by no means less important in effective defence systems.

A good example is electro-optics company Meprolight. Established in 1990, it has provided the military, law-enforcement and civilian markets with cutting-edge optical, thermal and night-vision devices. Last month, the company released the NOA NYX, the latest instalment in its NOA thermal sight series. Weighing less than a kilogram, the device utilizes microbolometer technology, making it effective in dust, smoke and even complete darkness. Perhaps most impressively, the device identifies human-sized targets at a 900 metre range whilst only requiring 4 'AA' batteries to function. It is fully operational within five seconds of activation, and can transmit a live video feed to a remote screen. Such advanced capabilities can dramatically influence the dynamics of battle, and assist law-enforcement in a hitherto unprecedented manner, proving every bit as influential as the accompanying ordnance.

The nature of contemporary security risks has placed a premium on the successful detection of suspects, long before they can carry out their intentions. Indeed, the tired cliché 'prevention is better than cure' holds especially true, particularly in civil defence. Here again, Israel is well placed to deliver innovative solutions to a market where there is little room for error. Indeed, the country has pioneered technology that many would assume only possible in science fiction novels. Take for instance WeCU Technologies Limited. The company has designed an automated system which is able to detect an individual's intentions after a 15-30 second screening session. By exposing an individual to certain stimuli, the person reacts and gives subtle clues to their association with it. The device monitors these physiological and emotional reactions, and is thus able to alert law enforcement to suspicious behaviour.

Perhaps more than any other public space, airports have been the most scrupulously monitored and managed. As a consequence, passengers typically face a battery of scans and security checks before boarding their flight. Despite being time consuming, these checks can be awkward, and subject to human error. The removal of shoes for instance, surely ranks amongst the most bothersome pre-flight screenings that passengers are obligated to undergo. Yet this inconvenience may soon be a thing of the past as innovations such as the 'MagShoe' scanner become increasingly commonplace. Developed by IDO Security, the device accurately detects metal items concealed in footwear and up to four centimetres above the ankle. Screenings take just two seconds to complete, and passengers do not have to remove their shoes. Already used extensively at airports in the United States of America, the 'MagShoe' is also perfectly suited for use at courthouses, prisons, stadiums and corporate offices.

Elsewhere, the Shoham based firm, Suspect Detection Systems, has developed technology capable of pinpointing a possible suspect, even if they have never been of interest to law enforcement. The system is operational in a range of environments including airports and border posts, and has proved 96% accurate in its assessments. The mechanism evaluates psycho-physiological indications which are then cross-referenced with a comprehensive and sophisticated database of information. In this way, suspects are quickly identified, and passed on to relevant authorities for further questioning. The company's client base ranges from the United States to South Africa.

Understandably, defence strategists are notoriously noncommittal when forecasting future trends. But ask them about unmanned aerial systems and they'll quickly close ranks and deliver a unanimous verdict. Quite simply, this revolutionary technology will experience exponential growth, and assume an increasingly vital role in defence programmes across the globe. Market analysis estimates that the worldwide UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) market will surge to a staggering $94 billion within the next decade alone. They may be 'en vogue' across the world now, but Israel has had four decades of experience in the development and refinement of unmanned aerial systems. Today, the country enjoys universal repute as a leading 'paragon' of this technology. One quickly realises why when they discover the phenomenal capabilities of Israel's latest UAVs. Israel Aerospace Industries' 'Eitan' is a prime example. Designed principally for reconnaissance missions, and comfortably operating at altitudes exceeding commercial air traffic, the 'Eitan' is a truly formidable asset. Equipped with specialized sensor and radar packages, it is able to function in all weather conditions, and remain airborne for an extraordinary 36 consecutive hours. But it is not alone. Elbit Systems' 'Hermes 900' is another Israeli-made UAV making headlines. An internal auto take-off and landing system allows this rugged UAV to safely function on alternate non-instrumented runways. When airborne, it employs an astonishing on-board inventory, including a Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI), electro-optics, and a sophisticated IR imaging laser range finder and laser designation system.

Such excellence inevitably finds itself in massive demand, and Israeli defence contractors have been inundated with orders from across the globe. A sizeable amount of this interest emanates from emerging economies. Take for instance Brazil, a booming economy with tremendous potential and ever increasing prosperity. Consequently, it will have the honour of hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2014, and the Olympic Games in 2016. As such, the Brazilian government has realised that it will require a world-class security apparatus in place for both these events. The Brazilian Air Force has therefore chosen to invest in both Elbit's and IAI's Unmanned Aircraft Systems to assist in fortifying its homeland security. This trade is reflective of Jim O'Neill's deductions which I addressed in my last article, 'New Dawn, New Day: Israel's Window of Opportunity in the 'Growth 8' Decade'.

For a country so small in geographic size, Israel has consistently 'punched above its weight' in providing defence solutions to the globe. The country's prodigious ingenuity has catapulted its inventions to near mythical status. But what truly separates the country from its contemporaries is its ability to respond to change. As new threats emerge, Israeli security contractors have rapidly and authoritively met the challenges. Such acute adaptability bodes well as Israel boldly strides into the future.