Coverage of the recent conflict in Gaza has often pointed out the roles of drones in Israeli military operations. Drones are capable of delivering gunfire, missiles or bombs, and often the Israelis use them for surveillance and ‘marking’ of targets. Palestinians report that drones are often capable of tracking cell phone locations and blocking communication. Drones are able to stay in the air for long periods, circle slowly at high elevations, carry very powerful surveillance equipment. They can often go where no pilot controlled aircraft can go.
Israeli drones contain many components imported from other countries. It has been reported by the Guardian that the engines for the Hermes drone, backbone of the Israeli drone fleet, comes from an Israeli owned British manufacturer, UAV Engines, Ltd. The company operates a manufacturing plant at Lichfield, near Birmingham. Israeli sources both admit and deny (more) that the Wankel engines produced by UAV Engines Ltd. are used in the Israeli Hermes drones. But the manufacturer’s website clearly states that the UEL AR 80 1010 (which is manufactured in Lichfield) is used in the Hermes 450 used by the Israeli Defence Forces.
Furthermore, the manufacturer in Lichfield, UAV Engines UEL) Ltd., is owned by Elbit Systems, the manufacturer of the Hermes drones.
The connections go further. The British Watchkeeper drone uses the same engines for power. Thus the British drone program is dependent on the same Israeli owned engine manufacturer as the Hermes 450 drone. The Watchkeeper is, in fact, a modified Hermes 450 drone with the technology acquired from Elbit Systems of Israel. The British government is a purchaser of Israeli drone technology, and thus contributes significantly to the Israeli arms industry, which supports the actions of the IDF. This was an £800,000,000 program, provided to a joint venture between Thales, a French company, and U-TacS, an Israeli company wholly owned by Elbit Systems of Israel, and located in Leicester.
In fact the British system is a highly integrated joint venture with the Israeli and French companies, which hope to export British made Watchkeeper drones in 2009. In effect, the British government by purchasing this technology, has provided the development costs for a product which is in effect an Israeli arms export. (Additional information)
Birmingham peace groups have picketed the Lichfield factory of UAV Engines (UEL) ltd.