IAI to move Ashdod operations to Beersheva

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) board of directors has taken the decision to move its land military systems development and production center from Ashdod to Beersheva. In the first stage between 200 and 300 employees, out of the thousands currently working in Ashdod, will be employed in Beersheva within three years.

The original decision to set up the Beersheva plant was taken in 2019, when the company announced that it would operate there in the fields of autonomous ground robots, ground radar systems, and border protection radar systems. But since then almost nothing has been done to implement the decision.

Calling on the state to help

The budget for the first stage of the project, includes moving forward with procedures to approve plans for the building for R&D laboratories costing over NIS 100 million. The facility will be constructed on a lot of over 200 dunams (50 acres) in Beersheva’s tech park.

IAI chairman Amir Peretz confirmed the plans to “Globes” and added that the decision symbolizes IAI’s vision to develop the Negev. Peretz added that to promote the vision will require government involvement.

Peretz said that he would raise the matter with the new government. Prime Minister elect Benjamin Netanyahu has previously declared that Beersheva would become Israel’s cybersecurity and technological capital and IAI hopes he will turn the declaration into deeds.

IAI president and CEO Boaz Levy told “Globes,” “The project represents the involvement of IAI in developing the Negev by expanding job prospects there, with an emphasis on the tech world.”

Not only does IAI sees this as a national strategic move, Beesheva Mayor Rubik Danilovich said that the new plant will provide additional jobs with high salaries for the young residents of the city and will attract a strong population to Beersheva.

Incentives for employees

Another figure involved in the process of making the decision is Yair Katz, secretary general of the IAI workers committee. He says that this will be no simple matter for many employees who will be forced to transfer their place of work to the south, and a mechanism must be set up to incentivize them. Katz added that the employees who will move from Ashdod to Beersheva will be offered a package of benefits and grants and a pay hike of several thousand shekels, and whoever doesn’t want to move will be offered an alternative job in Ashdod.

If indeed the vision of moving to Beersheva is realized by IAI, the plan will face fierce opposition from Ashdod Municipality and the residents of the region and will be extensively discussed by the workers committee. Moving several hundred employees is one thing but moving the thousands employed in Ashdod is a far more complicated matter.

The Division has proven itself

The plant and development center in Beersheva will deal, among other things, with the development of the “Carmel” autonomous system for armored vehicles. This is a technological system that will be mounted on IDF armored vehicles, tanks and APCs to improve their capabilities, including adding data gathering capabilities using diverse data sources, data processing and determining courses of action through advanced AI systems. Last year the company won the Ministry of Defense tender for the project’s development. This is a project with a budget of hundreds of millions of shekels.

Yoav Turgeman, CEO of IAI’s ELTA subsidiary, which develops military radar, communications and electronic warfare systems, and will manage the Beersheva activities, said that the company’s entry into the land systems sector three years ago has proven itself and the division has built up a significant backlog of orders.

Turgeman added that both R&D activities and a production line will be opened in the planned factory. The plant will also be involved in IAI’s commercial activities such as developing medical systems.

Turgeman estimates that the new plant will be operating within two years and that a substantial part of IAI’s land operations mill move there. In recent months there have been dozens of meeting with those party to the move including representatives of the Ministry of Defense and Beersheva Municipality.

Published by Globes, Israel business news – en.globes.co.il – on November 23, 2022.

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