In the meantime, IAI is in negotiations with Spacecom and anticipates the boost that development of Amos-6 will give to all of the company's space activities
“After a long two-and-a-half-year process we have won the contract to be the lead company and, in doing so, have introduced a lot of new cutting-edge technology,” says Weiss.
Amos-3 is still in orbit, Amos-4 will be lofted in 2013, and Amos-6 is planned for launch in the first quarter of 2015 with an anticipated life of at least 16 years.
“We are making a real technology leap with Amos-6,” he says. “We've doubled the [signal output] capacity from 4.5 kilowatts to 9 kilowatts. And we've almost doubled the number of transponders. We learned from [losing the contract to ISS Reshetnev for] Amos-5 to be creative and cost-effective in competing against the best companies in the satellite world. It's about a $200 million contract—which is a huge deal for IAI and the space industry in Israel. About 100 IAI employees, some of them new, will be working on the project.”
Some of the payload integration will be done at IAI, which is another technological leap for the company that positions it at the center of the commercial satellite business. The satellite to follow Amos-6 has no specific design yet.
In addition, Weiss says IAI will be enlarging its “indigenous capabilities” to enhance its competitive edge. “We intend the platform to compete in the international market. Its heritage is from Amos-4. It is one of the most sophisticated payloads that was ever built by IAI [and] it will be a good starting point.”
Business with Italy also looks promising, with agreements that Israel will buy 30 Alenia Aermacchi M-346 advanced trainer aircraft for roughly $1 billion. This acquisition would be offset by an Italian purchase of two IAI-built Gulfstream G550-based Conformal Airborne Early Warning (CAEW) aircraft, worth about $760 million, and an Ofeq high-resolution, electro-optical reconnaissance satellite priced at around $200 million. The Italian-operated satellite could be lofted as early as 2015.
The M-346s are to replace Israel's 1960s-vintage Fouga Magisters and older F-16A/Bs used in flight training. IAI and Elbit are to partner on the program as part of a deal with the Israeli defense ministry.
As for the CAEW aircraft, they are expected to have active electronic-warfare and intelligence-gathering capabilities based on IAI technology.
“We are defining the requirements,” says Weiss. “We expect the maintenance to be conducted in Israel. It could be that there will be interest in enhanced-capability aircraft in the future.”