The much delayed UK Watchkeeper programme has flown hundreds of test flights in the UK but remains out of service despite being declared critical to British needs.
France has promised to test Watchkeeper as part of a plan to replace its Sperwar drones. France currently uses Harfang drones for medium altitude long endurance purposes. Reports also suggest that France is considering replacing the Harfang with another IAI product, the giant Heron TP. (Read this for a description of some Heron TP problems).
Both Harfang and Watchkeeper are based on Israeli prototypes which have been ‘combat tested’ imposing the Israeli occupation on Palestine. Harfang is based on the Heron drone manufactured by state owned Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI), while Watchkeeper is based on Elbit System’s Hermes 450 drones.
Drone sales are extremely profitable for Israeli arms companies and are a big injection of foreign exchange into the apartheid state. Elbit System’s CEO Joseph Ackerman once complained about the negative impact on Elbit’s bottom line when income from the original Watchkeeper programme ended. With France set to purchase Watchkeeper drones there will probably be additional royalty payments and equipment sales due for the Israeli company.
Military cooperation and joint arms projects has also given Israel access to intellectual property and operational procedures that it otherwise would not have. This information can be used to increase Israel’s military effectiveness and iron control over the occupied territories. Some of the profits from drone sales will be used to create new and more deadly drone weapons. There appears to be no public information about the ongoing role of Elbit in the Watchkeeper programme, but Elbit remains one of two partners in UTacS, the consortium producing Watchkeeper, and so is likely able to access all intellectual property that is accessible to the French partner, Thales.
This recent article well illustrates the hypocritical roll that Britain and France are playing with respect to their relations with Israel. This press release from Thales pointedly ignores the Israeli connection to the project, perhaps tactily acknowledging sensitive nature of Israel’s involvement. Ethical countries have an obligation to support the principles of international law by sanctioning countries which flout it.
Continued purchases from Israeli arms companies must be considered unethical and counterproductive.