Marine Corps. contracts Israeli armor specialist for IED protection

Published 4 June 2007

IEDs now cause most of the U.S. casualties in Iraq; DHS officials say that it is only a matter of time before IEDs are used by terrorists on American soil; the search for a solution spans the globe

Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in Iraq — and now also in Afghanistan — pose a vexing problem for U.S. and other countries’ military services. Most of the U.S. causaualties in Iraq are now caused by ever more sophisticated and powerful IEDs, and the Pentagon and DHS have allocated large sums of money to try and defend U.S. personnel against this growing threat. In a presentation at the NDIA conference in Washington, D.C. two weeks ago, a high DHS official said that the department considers it only a matter of time, and not a very long time at that, before IEDs will be used in the United States against civilian transportation.

The United States is also looking to solutions developed in other countries, as is the case with ballistic armor specialist Plasan Sasa, owned by Kibbutz Sasa in northern Israel, which has just won a contract to supply its MRAP add-on armor kits to U.S. manufacturer International Military and GovernmentLLC as part of a $623 million Department of Defense tender to up-armor 1,200 vehicles for the U.S. Marine Corps. The armored vehicles will be delivered by the end of February 2008.

Plasan Sasa will supply solutions for armored vehicles which aim to increase survivability and mobility, decrease vulnerability, and reduce casualties. The company’s MRAP solution protects soldiers and vehicles not only against IEDs, but also against rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire.


Israel’s growing defense and homeland seucirty presence

The Plasan Sasa deal is but one example of growing interest in the defense and homeland security solutions from Israel. Jane’s Defense Weekly’s Alon Ben-David reports that Israeli defense companies secured contracts totalling some $4.5 billion in 2006, thus making Israel one of the world’s top five arms exporters together with the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France. Yossi Ben-Hanan, head of the Israeli Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) Defense Export Agency (SIBAT) told Jane’s that “I estimate that Israeli sales constituted more than 10 per cent of the global arms trade in


One of 2006 largest contracts was Israel Aircraft Industries’ (IAI) and India’s Defense Research and Development Organization’s joint development of the Barak 8 ship-borne surface-to-air missile, totalling more than $400 million. Indeed, in 2006 India became Israel’s primary customer for defense products, with sales amounting to $1.5 billion. Last year was also the first year in which Israeli defense sales to its second largest customer, the United States, exceeded $1 billion. Recall that only eight years ago, in 1999, the total value of Israeli defense companies’ sales in the United States was only $300 million.

Similar growth trends are apparent in sales to the European market, in which Israeli defense sales reached $800 million in 2006.

One reason for the success of Israeli defense companies is their focus. Israeli companies do not produce fighting platforms, apart from UAVs, instead and concentrating on systems, subsystems, integration, and upgrades of existing platforms. “We do not compete with the giants but you could find Israeli products being part of most major platform procurements today,” said Ben-Hanan.

Which brings us back to Plasan Sasa. Ben Hanan noted that among the Israeli companies, Plasan Sasa achieved the most significant growth. The company had $2 million sales in 1999, but in 2006 was awarded contracts totalling $215 million.

Ben Hanan expects Israeli industries to maintain a level of at least $3 billion in sales in 2007.

When talking about Israeli defense exports, we cannot but note a constant source of friction between the United States and Israel. The United States has charged on several occasions that Israel was violating U.S. export restrictions, to say nothing of undermining U.S. national security interests, by exporting defense systems which contain U.S. technology or intellectual property, or which were developed in whole or in part with U.S. funds, to countries such as China. In response to American complaints, the Israeli MoD has now prepared legislation which would require any individual or firm requesting exports of defense-related products to be registered and licensed, before conducting any contact with potential customers. Note that the proposed legislation will apply even to Israeli citizens who are not residents, as well as foreign residents in Israel.