Israeli defense companies will showcase air defenses and other advanced technologies at the upcoming Singapore Airshow. The event, which will run from Feb. 15-18, takes on greater importance this year because of increased drone activity in the Middle East and tensions between Russia and Ukraine.
The world is waking up to the fact that the era of counterterrorism may now be eclipsed by great power rivalry and the major technologies that underpin modernized forces. That includes the use of artificial intelligence and net-centric warfighting reforms that countries like Israel are pioneering.
Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, a leading Israeli defense company and the producer of the Iron Dome defense system, is one of the most notable companies participating in the Singapore Airshow.
Most notably, Rafael is showcasing its Spyder air defense system. Rafael describes the system as a “quick reaction, lower-tier Air-Defense system, designed to counter enemy aircraft, bombs, UAVs, and precision-guided munitions,” according to a press release. These capabilities are important because UAVs are a major and emerging threat.
Iranian-backed groups, such as the Houthis in Yemen and Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq, have been increasingly using drones to target the United Arab Emirates and U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria. With air defense systems becoming a necessity for countries, many are investing in the kind of multi-layered defense that Israel uses. In the Gulf, for instance, Patriot missile batteries and THAAD systems are being used to counter drones, and the United States also employs the C-RAM system in Iraq.
Rafael says that its Spyder air defense “provides effective protection of valuable assets, as well as first-class defense for maneuvering forces.” The company claims that “by incorporating an integrated radar, Toplite EO/IR sensor and launcher onto a single platform, the All-in-One Spyder can address a defense force’s individualized, operational needs.” The Spyder, which the Czech Republic agreed to buy in 2021, is also the only Israeli-made air defense system that has been purchased by a NATO member state.
Rafael also plans to highlight its MicroLite system and the BNET ground-based Software-Defined Radio (SDR) system. The MicroLite is “an innovative, compact, lightweight EO/IR Intelligence, Surveillance, Targeting and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) system, for small aerial platforms such as UAVs, manned aircraft, aerostats, and observation balloons,” the press release said.
The BNET is a “modular, multi-band, multi-channel, net-centric system [that] enables unprecedented data rates and user numbers enabling all land, sea and air units to participate in a single, seamless, scalable network.”
Rafael will also showcase its Litening-5 targeting and navigation pod. In addition, it will display the RecceLite XR reconnaissance system, which the company says enables extended standoff ranges of over eighty kilometers for aircraft. Of course, Rafael will also showcase its Iron Dome system, the David’s Sling air defense system, and the Drone Dome counter-drone system. Rafael makes the Iron Dome in the United States with Raytheon, and the system has been supplied to the U.S. military. The United States has supported Iron Dome and David’s Sling with funding, and the United States and Israel are working closely on the development of a third system, called Arrow 3, of which Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is the prime contractor.
IAI will also be at the Singapore Airshow. IAI president and CEO Boaz Levy said that “IAI looks forward to participating in the iconic Singapore Airshow and showcasing our cutting-edge technologies.” He added that this includes state-of-the-art technologies, such as IAI’s missile and defense systems, and other advanced aerial, naval, land, and space platforms.
IAI will be showing off its Blue Spear surface-to-surface missile system for the first time. It is also bringing its Barak air and missile defense systems. Blue Spear was co-developed by IAI and Singapore’s ST Engineering, and it is marketed and sold by Proteus Advanced Systems. The Israeli company is also showing off its ThunderB VTOL and the Mini Harpy, a loitering munition.
Taken together the spotlight on these systems showcases not only Israel’s technological advances and the way the small country punches above its weight in the field of defense, but also on shifting defense priorities. As the United States seeks to increase funding for near-peer rivalry, which could mean prioritizing funding for the Navy and Air Force, other countries such as Australia and the UAE are busy buying submarines and warplanes. This is the new reality for military procurement. Whatever rules-based international order some thought might emerge in the 1990s accompanied by American hegemony and military dominance is rapidly changing. Drones made in places like Iran, China and Turkey are shifting the global defense world order. Iron Dome and Israel’s vow to roll out new air and laser defenses demonstrate how countries are shifting to prepare for new threats. The Singapore Airshow is an example of these shifts.
Seth J. Frantzman is a Jerusalem-based journalist who holds a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis and a writing fellow at Middle East Forum. He is the author of After ISIS: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East and Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machines, Artificial Intelligence, and the Battle for the Future. Follow him on Twitter at @sfrantzman.