UAV Tech and Drone Warfare Highlighted at ISDEF 2019


Welcoming sign to the show.

Israel Defense and HLS Expo is the country’s largest biennial defense show that is held at the Tel Aviv Expo International Center. The show features both indigenous Israeli and foreign defense companies with booths for both in a main convention hall. This year’s emphasis was centered on unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and counter-UAV technology as the increasing use of drones in warfare continues to advance at a breakneck pace. Apart from UAVs, there were certainly a number of other companies that displayed the latest and greatest this year as well.

Black Eagle-50 rotary unmanned aerial vehicle (RUAV).

Mounting Systems

Flex Force Enterprises Inc. displayed its ASP RWS mount for the MK-93 tripod, currently in use with the U.S. Navy. Displayed in the booth was a .50 BMG M2 machine gun affixed to the system, but other machine guns can be easily emplaced in the system as per customer request. The purpose of the mount is to have a gyro-synchronized heavy machine gun stabilization system while also offering the capability of a remote-controlled weapon station with the addition of a user-operated remote-control panel. This allows machine gunners to have a much more accurate system while operating in arduous environments such as shooting from a boat at sea or the turret of a vehicle while on bumpy roads. But units that want to employ an RC system will have this option as well.

Flex Force’s ASP mount allows for a variety of machine guns to be mounted to an MK-93 tripod with the company’s stabilizing and remote control system. Weapon systems are clamped to the system using existing pintle points and a custom-designed bracket tray. Using only controls in the spade grips, machine gunners can at once free-gun their weapon to quickly get it on target but then make minute adjustments while having the system locked in place. Thermal and day cameras are incorporated into the tray on the right side of the system, but this is an optional add-on should end users incorporate the remote-control capabilities.


Israeli Weapons Industries (IWI) released the company’s new 5.56x45mm NATO Carmel rifle within the last year. It was on display at IWI’s booth where it took many an onlooker’s attention. The rifle appears to be designed for export sales as the IDF is still actively using Tavor X95 and M4-patterned carbines. Similar to the Tavor and Masada firearms, Carmel is named after a mountain in Israel. The rifle is a short-stroke piston, gas-operated, select-fire design that uses STANAG magazines and is equipped with a folding stock. Currently there are no plans to import it into the United States for sale on the civilian commercial market, but judging from previous IWI designs, this will most likely be a matter of time and is in the works with the ATF for importation approval.

The Carmel’s stock can be telescoped to six positions of length of pull, has a three-position rising cheek rest comb and has a trapdoor buttstock that can be interchanged for different designs if IWI comes up with them in the future. The most important aspect of the rifle is that the controls are fully ambidextrous with safety selector, bolt catch/release and magazine catch on both sides of the receiver. The charging handle can be easily slotted from either side of the track it runs in to the other with a simple tap in the right location when the bolt is locked to the rear. There are six sling-swivel attachment points, three on each side of the rifle to accommodate a variety of slings and attachment methods.

Barrett Firearms Manufacturing representative Tim Adams demonstrates to the assembled crowd some of the capabilities of the multicaliber manually-loading Barrett MRAD rifle. The MRAD is of particular significance within Israel as the IDF has purchased and armed several units with the MRAD.


Counter-UAV applications being of particular importance during the show, the Israeli start-up company Smart Shooter, Ltd. was showing off its SMASH optic that it has been working on for several years. Both an optic and a fire control system, once mounted to a rifle and zeroed, the system allows a single shooter to lock-on to a moving or stationary target with the press of an external button mounted on the handguard. Once locked, the SMASH system blocks the trigger from being pressed until the system computes a ballistic solution that matches the trajectory and velocity of the bullet. When this is achieved within the system, the user can then press the trigger and the rifle will fire. Although initially debuted for infantry targets, the SMASH system has been successfully used to shoot down commercial drones with single shots up to ranges of 200 meters while undergoing tests in the United States.

The SMASH optic is designed to be mounted to the 12 o’clock rail of any weapon system that incorporates one. This con-figuration is designed for an M4-patterned carbine with the trigger block incorporated into the pistol grip of the rifle. Mounted on the left-hand portion of the handguard is the tracking button so a user can have a moving target in focus and then track it while viewing it live. SMASH is powered by a removable battery pack on the right side of the optic. User controls are just below the focal lens, and there is a flip-up dust cover on the objective lens.

Steiner Optics is entering the digital age with the company’s 4-28x56mm M7Xi IFS precision rifle optic. The scope has an embedded computer that surrounded the focus lens and is run by a single AA battery. This device is connected and customizable through an app that can be downloaded to a tablet or smartphone. Peering through the scope, a user can use the external buttons for such inputs as wind speed and range. These are then computed into the display, and suggestions are given to the user as to how to dial the elevation and windage turrets in order to make a ballistic calculation. The app also allows users to input previous shooting data from different ammunition loads that a shooter might have access to, thus allowing a wide range of preset options to be used in the field.

Using this tablet app, users can design the heads-up display that they will see while looking through the scope. This includes the types of display boxes and even their positions depending on what and where the shooter wants this information displayed. The display takes up the upper one-third of the reticle, leaving the bottom two-thirds as a standard reticle.

Steiner’s variable 4-28x56mm M7Xi IFS mounted on a Spur Picatinny rail riser. The computer is integrated into the focal lens tube with user input buttons on top of the scope.


Introduced along with the Carmel is the 9x19mm Masada, Israel’s first mass-produced, polymer-framed, striker-fired handgun that should be coming to the U.S. commercial market soon. On display at the show were a wide variety of finishes and configurations to include an optic-ready variant and a simplified rear combat sight variant.

IWI’s Masada, shown here in a tinted grey finish and with a Picatinny-mounted optics ready platform with a red dot optic. Note that the handgun’s slide still retains the dovetail rear sights in case the optic platform fails or breaks off.

Representatives from Fobus Holster were present with a new Inside the Waistband (IWB) holster called the APN. There are currently three models on the market so far, the APN26 for the Glock 26 and 27, APN43 for the Glock 43 and the APN365 for the SIG SAUER P365 handgun. The holster is uni-directional as it can be switched for left- or right-hand use within minutes.

Recover Tactical wooed visitors with their scaled-up Glock 43 model displaying the company’s products in place on it. These examples are the Picatinny rail adaptor where the 43 model has none, an enlarged cocking tab that allows users to get a firmer grasp on the Glock 43’s slimmer single-stack slide. Also present is the company’s magazine floor plate that allows concealed carriers to fit extra magazines in their pockets with a clip on the spine of the magazine.

Israeli start-up Recover Tactical had on hand a number of its polymer add-on components designed for a variety of handguns. But of particular interest was their Browning/FN Hi Power pistol grip panel, incorporated Picatinny rail upgrade system. Unfortunately, this wasn’t at the show table, but the company has completed testing and will soon be ready to ship in the United States.

Wearable Equipment

Fobus’ holster incorporates a rear sweat guard along with a curved polymer piece that creates a slight opening in the waistline. This allows users to have a better grasp on the hand-gun while drawing from a concealed stance because it creates an opening for knuckles to fit into. The holster is ambidextrous as the sweat guard, retaining clip and curved piece can be switched to the opposite within minutes for left- or right-handed users.

Aleppo Systems International has been working on a backpack belt ammunition system that is currently in trials with a number of IDF units. What makes the backpack unique is the use of advanced polymers for the feed chute where belts of 5.56x45mm ammunition are fed through from the backpack itself to the gunner in the front. This frees up room to maneuver with the light machine gun, in addition to having a continuous feed system without having to reload. The system can also be configured to be placed in a vehicle where the machine gun might be mounted in a turret.

Aleppo Systems’ ammunition belt carrier uses a backpack-mounted device combined with a malleable polymer feed chute that is linked to an M249 or Negev LMG. The system is designed so assistant gunners can easily rip out an ammunition box that has been emptied and quickly replace it with a fresh one in field conditions.

TrekAce is a new company with a vision of changing the way infantrymen navigate on the battlefield. The concept is to wear a forearm-mounted wrap that communicates with a user via a set of vibrating pins that a soldier can tactilely feel on his skin. Arranged in a star-like pattern, these pins will vibrate in directions so that a soldier can “feel” his way across a battlefield. The idea is to allow soldiers to focus more on their surroundings and be situationally aware, instead of being channeled into a GPS device or compass, possibly being led astray. One extremely innovative plan that the company is testing is whether the device can be used to navigate soldiers on high altitude jumps where they need to be completely aware of the terrain below them and what is in the sky around them, but also need to make pinpoint landings in their LZ, even in complete darkness.

Although quietly displayed, Israeli company Source Tactical (known for their hydration systems) showed its FORTEX Protective System combat uniform at its booth. Company representatives were tight-lipped about it due to its current competition with the British MoD for a future combat uniform, but we should be seeing more about it in the future. The uniform incorporates such features as ballistic fabric sewn into the upper part of the blouse, air vents at the armpits, forearms, an optional “beltless” waist system and cargo pockets that can be accessed while sitting in cramped vehicles, in addition to many more innovative features.