Rafael subsidiary gets classified clearance to work in US
WASHINGTON — The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency granted facility clearance to Rafael Systems Global Sustainment, an American subsidiary of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, in February, according to company president and CEO Joseph Anderson.
RSGS is the only US-based subsidiary of Israeli defense company Rafael to receive the clearance, Anderson, told Defense News in a Feb. 28 interview.
Rafael is known for technologies in the realm of missiles, air defense, artificial intelligence, radars, sensors and communications and network capabilities.
The U.S. Army alone has already purchased a variety of critical capabilities from Rafael including Spike missiles for its Apache attack helicopters, two Iron Dome batteries as an interim cruise missile defense capability and the Trophy Active Protection System for its Abrams tanks.
In addition to the Spike family of missiles, the Iron Dome Air Defense System and the Drone Dome Counter-Unmanned Aircraft System, RSGS is also focused on technologies such as AI enabled combat vehicle suite technology, sensor-to-shooter integration software and makes the BNET family of advanced, tactical broadband IP-MANET (Mobile AD Hoc Network) radios. Rafael is partnered with Raytheon on Iron Dome development and production. The team has plans to open up a production facility to build the systems in the U.S.
The process to receive the clearance took multiple years. RSGS became a Limited Liability Company in September 2019 and received an employer identification number in November. RSGS signed a lease to establish its headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, in January 2020. The process for the clearance began in earnest in April 2020 and hit snags during the coronavirus pandemic. Part of the process required the handling of classified documents, which meant the need for in-person work in a controlled office space.
Receiving the capability allows RSGS to “Americanize” its technologies, Anderson said.
“It now gives Rafael, as a foreign company, via their American subsidiary, a means to work classified programs within Rafael without having to rely on a joint venture or some other partnership or business agreement,” he said, while noting that he expects those types of relationships to continue as RSGS is considered a small, startup American company and those arrangements are still beneficial.
For instance, Rafael is a sub-contractor on Oshkosh Defense’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle design team, bringing artificial intelligence technology to the effort.
The OMFV program is in a preliminary design competition phase where five teams are competing to develop an initial design of what will replace the Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle.
“As we work on programs like OMFV, when it gets to the classified phase of a program, RSGS can now do that for Rafael as part of Rafael versus either being excluded from it or relying on another partner who is not the same company,” Anderson explained.
Being able to participate in classified portions of the competition means RSGS will be able to provide a deeper level of information on Rafael’s technologies and will be able to translate that into how those technologies meet program requirements, Anderson said.
Rafael hopes with the new clearance to be able to expand its missile, air defense and base defense, counter-UAS, lethality, AI and machine learning, situational awareness, sensing, force protection, lethality and communications and networking portfolios in the U.S., Anderson listed.
“Along the modernization priorities for the Army, along with the joint-counter UAS office, just think of the programs that are aligned with those different offices and how that changes the ability to work in those portfolios where before we could not,” he said.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.