02 May, 2017 SOURCE: Flightglobal.com BY: Craig Hoyle London

Not content merely with being Israel's largest private defence contractor, Elbit Systems has also long been focused on building its global footprint, by establishing local subsidiaries, acquiring complementary companies or forming joint ventures.

After following all three of these paths in the UK, its in-country employment base now totals around 500 people at four subsidiaries and two joint ventures. For Martin Fausset, who previously held senior positions at AgustaWestland and Rolls-Royce, and has been chief executive of Elbit Systems UK since March 2016, the objective is clear: expand further.

"My job is to co-ordinate and grow a strategy for these six companies," Fausset tells FlightGlobal at the company's recently opened head office in central London. "We want to market the best technology we have from our parent [company] to the UK," he adds.

Elbit's UK subsidiaries include avionics and mission system specialist Ferranti Technologies, unmanned air vehicle propulsion system manufacturer UAV Engines, plus Elite KL and Instro Precision, both of which are largely associated with land vehicles and sensors.

However, its joint ventures have higher prominence. The Affinity Flying Training Services activity with KBR will support tri-service pilot training for the UK armed forces from later this year, while its UTacS partnership with Thales provides Watchkeeper UAVs to the British Army.

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Contracted via the Lockheed Martin/Babcock Ascent Flight Training consortium to deliver part of the UK Military Flying Training System (MFTS), Affinity will supply an eventual 38 aircraft. The first five of these Grob Aircraft-supplied G120TPs are already at the Royal Air Force's Cranwell base in Lincolnshire, where they are supporting instructor familiarisation ahead of service entry later this year.

Fausset says the turboprop-powered G120TP's performance is significantly better than the UK's earlier Grob 115 Tutor, and that Affinity is on track to meet a ready-for-training target during July. "We're in good shape for that," he adds.

Grob delivered its most recent pair of elementary trainers in early March, and has another 18 to transfer. Other assets to be supplied under the arrangement include 10 Beechcraft T-6C basic trainers and five Embraer Phenom 100s, to instruct crews for multi-engined types. The Brazilian manufacturer rolled out its first MFTS aircraft at the end of 2016, and Affinity says it will be delivered "on schedule early this summer".

After a protracted development and an initial deployment as the UK's combat involvement in Afghanistan came to an end earlier this decade, the Watchkeeper system is nearing full operational capability. In preparation for this, the Royal Artillery's 47 Regt last year commenced a training deployment using the UAVs at Wideawake airfield on Ascension Island. This activity was part of a programme to prepare an initial 16 pilots for a first operational battery equipped with the type, which is a substantial upgrade of Elbit's Hermes 450 tactical UAV.

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Elbit and Thales continue to seek export buyers for the Watchkeeper system, having missed out on an opportunity to equip the French army, which has instead ordered the Safran Electronics & Defense Patroller. Fausset says the companies now "have a number of export opportunities in the early stages of development".

Current campaigns for Elbit in the UK include pursuing its air support to defence operational training requirement, which includes simulation-based instruction. "We have a very strong training and simulation capability, which is right up there with others in terms of technology," says Fausset, noting that the company already runs the Israeli air force's training academy and supports numerous international operators.

Elbit Systems UK is also offering the Israel-developed Spectro electro-optical/infrared turret developed for potential use on land vehicles and aircraft, and promoting its Heli-ClearVision system with Leonardo Helicopters to protect rotorcraft crews operating in degraded visual environments.

Ferranti, meanwhile, recently delivered its first emergency personal locator beacons for RAF fast jet pilots, having adapted a system developed by Elbit's Elisra electronics unit in Israel.

"Elbit is very willing to invest in technology and enable its subsidiaries to transfer technology from Israel, and we are manufacturing things in the UK that we go on to export," he notes. It is also considering making further acquisitions to build its presence.

"We are ambitious to grow our footprint here and be a good supplier to our customer base: particularly the Ministry of Defence," Fausset says. "That's the beauty of having a flexible organisation which takes technology and uses it many times across different sectors."