The Next Big Thing in Defense High-Tech Is Energy Weapons Based on High-Power Lasers

Elbit Systems’ ISTAR & EW specializes in research, development and production of electro-optic systems for defense applications on land, in the air and at sea. Oded Ben-David, its Chief Technology Officer, discusses its activities

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Powerful aerial laserCredit: Ministry of Defense
In cooperation with Elbit
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“Many people with science, computer and engineering degrees don’t fully realize the tremendous opportunities waiting for them at companies like Elbit Systems, a global technology powerhouse. The company can be described as an incubator that is developing dozens of start-ups in one place,” says Oded Ben-David, a graduate of the Talpiot program and the CTO.

“Ebit Systems ISTAR & EW employs hundreds of scientists and engineers whose work entails trailblazing research and development,” he adds. “The difference is that thanks to our market position, engineering infrastructure and financial capabilities, we can carry out extensive and complex deep tech projects. As a result, people can develop their careers, take advantage of opportunities for horizontal development in different fields and benefit from exposure to a range of the world’s most advanced technologies and methodologies. This is in addition to having the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way to the security and safety of soldiers, first responders and citizens in a range of countries. We provide a creative environment that encourages initiative and independent thinking that we believe are key for personal and professional growth. In our company, there are innumerable technological opportunities, and whoever enjoys professional challenges can join us and feel fulfilled.”

Spectro system

Elbit Systems ISTAR & EW bases its developments on various aspects of photonics, meaning various uses of light. We specializes in research, development and production of defense applications in the areas of electro-optics and laser for land, air, sea and Space.

What are the company’s main fields of activity?
“The company is considered a technological leader in the field of photonics, a field that has several subdivisions: the realm of lasers and the realm of sensors and imaging, which increasingly relies on analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). In the realm of lasers, we are involved in extensive tech projects aimed at developing high-power lasers for the defense industry and air defense systems that will protect us against the threat of missiles, drones, UAVs, etc. This is accomplished through high precision guidance of a high-power laser beam that destroys the threat in the air. This past June, together with the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the Israeli Air Force, we demonstrated for the first time the interception of UAVs using an airborne system of this sort. The test was a complete success and proved that this is the best and most economic solution for defending airspace and populations. It is a complex and innovative invention that includes a large variety of professional disciplines and heavy development infrastructures that are only feasible in companies such as ours. We have development teams that work on the laser source itself – deep physical R&D. Sensor, algorithm and AI experts develop the sensors for this complicated system that will guide the laser beam precisely to the target and follow it. Opto-mechanics are used to ensure the system’s precise guidance, and all this must work on an airplane, under difficult environmental conditions and while facing a large variety of threats and targets. The R&D people working in this field at Elbit Systems are highly motivated – the technological challenge is fascinating and sparks the imagination. We all want to see the system become operational as fast as possible and offer nations additional layer of protection.”

Oded Ben-David, CTO at Elbit Systems ISTAR & EW

“We are one of the world’s largest manufacturers of target-driven lasers. These lasers are incorporated in UAVs, helicopters or airplanes and are also used by ground forces to guide attacks and minimize collateral damage. We are proud of the R&D capabilities of our physicists and engineers. Thousands of lasers that were designed and manufactured by Elbit Systems are in use by the U.S. Air Force and Marines, as well as by many other NATO Armed Forces.

“Our development teams are also working on optical fiber lasers that are used, for example, in DIRCM systems that are installed on airplanes and helicopters protecting them from shoulder-fired missiles. Those DIRCM systems we produce are installed on aircraft of all three Israeli commercial airliners, on NATO’s fleet of tanker-transporter aircraft fleet, onboard aircraft of several head of states and selected also by the German Air Force and most recently the Air force of the UAE.”

What about the field of sensors and imaging?
“We are proud to be researching, designing and building Space Cameras for Israeli Space programs and for Defense and Environmental programs in Europe and in South Korea. It’s a fascinating professional specialty at the cutting edge of technology and space – to survive the launch, be operative and take pictures for years under difficult space conditions, such as extreme temperatures, radiation and particle flows.

“Back on Earth, we have breakthroughs with innovative sensors that in a single optic can sense and resemble several spectral fields – from visible light fields through near infra-red (NIR) and up to thermal imaging fields. This revolutionary technology enables us in a single large optical key to obtain fantastic observations. This capability faithfully serves operational systems which I am not allowed to discuss further. The same technology was also applied on a payload called SPECTRO XR that is based on a large multispectral observation eye with abilities that are substantially superior to similar systems in the world. All of this is the fruit of labor of brilliant physicists, engineers and algorithmists who specialize in this field. All of these systems incorporate sophisticated AI which makes it easier for the operators to complete their mission. The SPECTRO XR system is installed on helicopters, ships and UAVs, and produces high-quality intelligence during both day and night and in all weather conditions.”

Sky protection system

How did you get into your additional field, AI and analytics, and what is your forecast for this field?
“Elbit Systems has some of the most advanced optical design abilities and best sensors in the world. In order to utilize them in the best way possible and provide users with the highest value, we are investing in algorithmic R&D, deep learning and AI systems. We are creating an extremely impressive predictive database in the various spectral fields in order to train networks. For example, in the future, sights for armored vehicles will actually collect AI-based multispectral intelligence. These systems will be able to independently carry out tasks of searching for targets by using several sensors and AI algorithms with proper hardware, similar to what autonomous cars must be doing – constant search for objects , understand what they are and make decisions about how to react to them. All of this is possible thanks to development teams that are highly motivated to turn dreams into reality.”

In Cooperation with Elbit