DUBAI AIRSHOW NEWS: Israeli Companies Make First Show Appearance

By Meredith Roaten
Elbit Systems at the Dubai Airshow

Elbit Systems photo

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates —More than a year after signing peace accords, several Israeli defense companies have made their way to the Dubai Airshow to pitch their products to Emirati customers.

The United Arab Emirates inked the Abraham Accords Peace Agreement with Israel last summer, and both countries are open for business, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems regional manager Rafi Etan, said on the sidelines of the Dubai Airshow Nov. 16.

“The hospitality, the flexibility — everyone makes us feel like home, really,” he said when asked about the company’s reception at the show. “I'm not talking on behalf of myself. I'm talking on behalf of the Israeli industry. I think all of us feel at home at this point.”

Prior to the show, Elbit Systems announced the establishment of Elbit Systems Emirates. Other  Israeli companies such as Sinbad were grouped together at the show to create an Israeli Pavilion.

Ran Kril, executive vice president for international marketing and business development for Elbit, said in a statement that, “The Abraham Accords provide a sound basis for business collaborations in the region. The UAE and other Countries in the region are important new markets for Elbit Systems. We believe that our broad portfolio of solutions positions us well to address the needs and opportunities in this region.”

Rafael's Etan said one regional problem his company could help solve is the spike in swarming drone attacks.  The technology behind customizable drones has become cheaper, causing the proliferation of hard-to-kill aerial vehicles in countries around the world. Rafael’s counter-UAS technology could meet local customers' needs, he added.

Rafael’s Drone Dome can detect targets as small as an eighth of a square foot and as far away as 2 miles. To destroy drones, the system uses a laser, which can operate in “highly contested environments” by using an advanced directional antenna, according to the company’s website.

“What the end user is looking at here in the UAE is similar to the challenges that we have in Israel,” Etan said.

He acknowledged the difficulty of coming into a new market, and said there is a need to understand and learn its nuances.

“There is a learning curve for both sides, by the way — business-wise, technology-wise, regulation-wise, because it's new in the end of the day,” he said.

Coming to the events like the Dubai Airshow is the first step to making progress on that learning curve, he said. The company tried to attend the International Defense Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, but “it didn’t work out,” he said.

“The informal dialogue between the industry and the end users is allowing us really to understand better the market for one hand and for them to understand [our] technologies and the capabilities on the other hand,” he said.

He emphasized the success Rafael has had in countries around the world. For example, Lockheed Martin and Rafael signed an agreement to sell one of its autonomous, air-to-surface weapon systems to the United States earlier this month.

“Both sides are eager to really come over this gap of a relationship that has been political, but now, I think we're on the good side of it,” Etan said.

While Rafael has local partnerships around the world, Etan noted the relationship with the Emirati government may need to grow closer before localization efforts in the country begin. He said the company believes that the UAE is more interested in “white collar” collaboration such as artificial intelligence.

“We need to be a bit more comfortable and knowledgeable in the market to understand the capabilities on one hand, and what we can provide on the other hand, but definitely looking into localization in different aspects,” he said.


Topics: Global Defense Market

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