Israel Aerospace Industries and Matrix Defense are partnering on an artificial intelligence center to develop automated target detection for future battlefields.

“The two companies will co-develop AI, machine learning (ML) and Big Data-driven solutions to be integrated into IAI’s satellite and space systems, defense and attack systems, missiles, homing heads, electro-optical payloads, and additional systems,” a Feb. 21 statement on the agreement said.

IAI sees the collaboration with Matrix Defense, an AI and machine learning application service, as part of the open innovation that state-owned IAI supports. In October, IAI selected five Israeli startups out of hundreds that expressed interest in the company’s accelerator and innovation center.

“The state-of-the-art technologies we develop and implement provide the business technological value and increase the effectiveness of our advanced systems for our customers,” said Inbal Kreiss, head of IAI’s Systems Missiles & Space Group Innovation Center. Expanding the existing AI capabilities will enhance performance on the future battlefield, making IAI systems more robust, she added.

IAI and Matrix CEOs

The push into artificial intelligence is part of a broader trend for Israeli defense giants. Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has put AI on Spice bombs and incorporated it into numerous other technologies used for surveillance and digital networking on the battlefield. Elbit Systems has added AI to its HattoriX target acquisition system and its Condor MS imaging for strategic recon missions.

“The development center will seek to expand the capabilities and performance of existing systems and introduce innovative capabilities on automated systems,” IAI said in a statement.

Matrix has an AI research center that emphasizes deep learning, and the partnership will help the two companies create breakthroughs, said Ron Barak, head of AI research at Matrix Defense. “Matrix’s solutions are integrated into a broad range of information-generating channels and digital transformation, providing significant value to our civilian and defense customers.”

The new technology will be implemented in IAI’s satellite, space, homing, defense, assault and other systems, the company said. It noted that it has AI capabilities on various unspecified systems already. “At the center both companies will create innovative analytic engines and enhanced battlefield capabilities. The joint teams will work with experts in specific fields such as satellites, missiles, strategic systems, and more, as well as content experts on AI, analytical engines, and big data,” the IAI statement noted.

In the age of big data, IAI pointed out that operators grapple with a massive amount of information. Including tools that can sift through all the information being sponged up by modern electro-optics and defense systems with high reliability “will enhance the systems’ performance and provide a significant edge on the future battlefield.”

IAI subsidiary Elta Systems, which makes sensors and radar, uses software that employs artificial intelligence and machine learning to deal with big data challenges. AI contributes to more effective threat detection and classification, the company has said. In 2020, Elta offered participating startups in a partnership with Israel’s MassChallenge accelerator the chance to move toward a technology proof of concept.

Seth J. Frantzman is the Israel correspondent for Defense News. He has covered conflict in the Mideast since 2010 for different publications. He has experience covering the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and he is a co-founder and executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.

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