Archive for category Elbit Systems

French still considering Anglo-Israeli Watchkeeper drone

In 2012 the French arms company Thales convinced the French government to consider purchasing the Watchkeeper drone. As the government of France changed, the incoming government was anxious to rid itself of some of the connections the previous government had had with elements of the French arms industry. So it was inclined to widen its search for drones to include what the French press sometimes calls the Anglo-Israeli Watchkeeper drone.

La Tribune reported that French trials of Watchkeeper  in early 2013 didn’t go very well. Other trials occured at l’Istres, presumably at Le Tubé air base, near Marseille. French Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Edouard Guillaud said that The results are not yet those we hoped.” Only half of the flights were successful, partly due to bad British weather, and partly due to technical reasons. Yet the French military claimed to be still supportive of Watchkeeper, as the largest European drone programme. La Tribune suggested that France might purchase 15 Watchkeeper systems by 2019. And Thales ramped up its selling pitch by taking Watchkeeper to the Paris Air show, as a model with French army colours.

By November La Tribune was reporting that the head of France’s land army, General Ract-Madoux, was asking for Watchkeeper and wanted to lease two systems even before delivery of purchased systems. He wanted delivery moved forward to 2016-17 rather than 2019. Ract-Madoux said ” The drone flies and lands perfectly. However , the links between the UAV and the ground have a problem ”  Ract-Madoux felt the system hadn’t reached ‘maturity’ and urged Thales to solve the problems. 

Included in Anglo French cooperation was the testing of a new Thales high speed data link as an alternative to the existing data link. The TMA data link might also be used on Reaper or Heron drones being used in the French or British air forces. It isn’t clear whether this related to previous concerns with Watchkeeper data links.

The CEO of Thales, Jean-Bernard Levy tried to sell the idea of France buying Watchkeeper, on the basis of it’s being what France wanted, cheap, having a European supply chain, and would be under exclusive control of French forces.

TTU Online has reported that on 18 November 2013 four members of the French 61 Artillery Regiment will join a team from 43 battery of the British 47 Regiment on Salisbury Plain as the latter tries to ‘ramp up’ the struggling Watchkeeper program. . The purpose was to more closely integrate the two armies in their ability to operate drones (and presumably further the assessment of the Watchkeeper drone for the French).

Ract-Madoux suggested that French officers and NCO’s should go to Afghanistan in early 2014 when the British Watchkeepers would presumably be sent there, “to test the behaviour of the device in a theatre of operations.”  But according to TTU Online, British officials ‘did not envisage’ French participation in British operations in Afghanistan and offered them the chance to jointly test Watchkeeper in Canada instead.

Writing in L’Enterprises, Vincent Lamigeon speculated that many French politicians would support a competing bid from Saran, the ‘Patroller’ a larger drone made almost entirely in France.  He suggested that Senators might demand an open bidding process and that political campaigning had earlier resulted in France acquiring American Reaper drones, rather than the Heron drones offered by Israeli Aerospace Industries and Dassault.

 

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Noisy Watchkeeper Drones

Videos of the first UK flight of the new Watchkeeper drone reappeared on Youtube this week. The first flight of Watchkeeper drone in the UK took place several years ago, after the drone was initially tested in Israel by French arms company Thales and its Israeli partner Elbit Systems. Thales is tasked with producing a new British drone from an Israeli prototype, the Hermes 450. So far the project is almost three years late, and Thales has been forced to pay the cost of British ISTAR surveillance in Afghanistan (that Watchkeeper was supposed to provide).

What is clear from the video is how irritating is the noise of the Watchkeeper drone. Residents near the Welsh drone testing site at Parc Aberporth have long complained about the incessant noise of Watchkeeper tests. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza say that the Hermes 450 drone used by the Israeli occupation forces is used not only for surveillance and assassination, but for harrassment and intimidation, as the high pitched engine noise overhead cannot be ignored.

Curiously, the long delays in finalising the Watchkeeper have been blamed by the UK Ministry of Defence on the need to certify Watchkeeper in civilian airspace. Yet it is difficult to see how the noisy Watchkeeper drone can be used in civilian airspace without creating annoyance and alarm to civilian populations.

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Canadian Pension Plan Investment in Elbit Systems

In March of 2012 the Canadian Pension plan held approximately $2 million worth of shares in Elbit Systems of Israel. While $2 million is not an extremely large investment, it is large enough that Elbit Systems considers the CPP a ‘top holder’.

Elbit is one of the primary suppliers of arms to the Israeli military, and is linked with the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of West Bank and Gaza.

The Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade has produced an extensive research paper that documents the investments of top Canadian pension funds in companies profiting from military and ‘homeland security’ contracts with Israel.

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Israeli American and European Drone Lobbying of Canadian Government

Canada announced several years ago that it planned to acquire surveillance drones, and more lately indicated that it wanted to acquire armed ‘attack’ drones. It created the JUSTAS programme to manage part of the aquisition process, which has been discussed here before.

Several American and Israeli drone companies are registered to lobby the Canadian government. Because most of these companies have a variety of military products, and required reports of lobbying activity are often quite unspecific, it is difficult to determine how much of the lobbying relates to drones. In a given year some lobbyists may not lobby on a given project, but are presumably ready and able to lobby as required.

Also, the number of companies producing drones is proliferating, so might have escaped notice.

It is always disconcerting to discover how many former Canadian public servants now work for foreign enterprises lobbying the Canadian government, including the state owned corporations of other countries.

Elbit Systems, of Israel, has no fewer than  six lobbyists plying Canadian government officials, all working for CFN Consultants. Steven Irwin,  George Macdonald, Kevin O’Keefe, Charles Mclennan, Georges Rouseau, and George Butts, who are registered to lobby Department of National Defence, the Coast Guard, Public Safety Canada, and Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Steven Irwin had a long career with Department of National Defense Canada before becoming a lobbyist. George Macdonald was a high ranking Canadian officer until 2004. Kevin O’Keefe was a high ranking official in DND in the technical area. Charles Maclennan was a high ranking official in several Canadian government departments. Georges Rousseau was a high ranking military officer until 2008. George Butts was an official of a couple of government departments, including the Canadian Coast Guard.

Elbit Systems has several drone models for sale, including at least least two versions of the Hermes drone.

Israel Aircraft Industries, has five CFN lobbyists registered to lobby for them, including Kevin O’Keefe, Pierre Lagueux, Ian Parker, Gavin Scott and Greg Browning. Pierre Lagueux was a high ranking official in DND in ‘materiel’, until 1999. (His specific remit is listed as dealing with IAI’s wish to sell Canada its drones). Ian Parker was a high ranking naval officer until 2005. Gavin Scott was a government official dealing with supply until 2001. Greg Browning was a high ranking public official until 2008.

IAI has the Heron drone, and the Eitan for sale, among others.

General Atomics uses The Parliamentary Group, as its registered lobbyists, specifically Patrick Gagnon, a former Member of Parliament. General Dynamics lobbying efforts are specifically directed at the JUSTAS programme to acquire drones, presumably to sell its Predator or Reaper drones.

MacDonald Dettwiler, which has been an agent for IAI drones, maintains and active programme of lobbying government officials, but documentation does not show lobbying with respect to drones in the past year.

Raytheon International has several lobbyists with active registrations, including (from CFN Consultants) Steven Irwin, Kevin O’Keefe, Georges Rousseau, Charles Maclennan, Ian Parker, and Tony Goode. Ian Parker was a high ranking Canadian naval officer until 2005. Tony Goode was a high ranking military officer until 1996, with experience in positions in the US military.

Also with an active lobbyist registration is Jacques J. M. Shore, though Mr. Shore’s responsibilities do not seem to relate to lobbying with respect to drones. Thomas M. Culligan, Chief Executive Officer of Raytheon is also registered to lobby Canadian government officials.

Raytheon lobbyists are specifically tasked with lobbying relative to the JUSTAS programme.

Northrup Grumman has previouly promoted its Global Hawk drone to Canada. They have Meghan Spilka O’Keefe, former parliamentary assistant for Hon. Carolyn Bennet, MP, lobbying for them. She’s with Hill and Knowlton Strategies. Also Darcy Walsh who was once Director of Parliamentary Affairs PWGSC, Office of Minister Michael Fortier. Also Bruce Johnston, once a senior naval officer until 1996. Also Michael Coates, once Executive Assistant to Hon. Perrin Beatty, P.C., M.P. Also Goldy Hyder, once former Chief of Staff to Rt Hon Joe Clark. Also, Brian Fitch.

Pratt and Whitney Canada has registered to lobby with respect to Canada’s UAV policies, with at least three actively registered lobbyists, John Sabas CEO (and several PWC officers) involved in lobbying. Also, Richard A Morgan, formerly in the PMO, and Howard Mains, former government official, both of Tactix Government Consulting.

General Dynamics has a large number of registered lobbyists, but probably isn’t promoting a specific drone sale, although the company is pursuing drone related activities in Canada. .

EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company Canada) has Kenneth Pennie, KR Pennie Consulting, lobbying on its behalf. It isn’t clear whether EADS has any interest in selling Canada drones at present. It has the Baracuda drone, tested in 2009 at Goose Bay, NL,  and others. Pennie was Chief of Air Staff for the DND until 2005. EADS also has David Angus of  The Capital Hill Group lobbying for it. Until 1985 Angus was a liason officer in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Thales Canada, of France, has an active lobby effort, apparently headed by its President and CEO Paul Kahn. Thales has interests in several drone programmes, but the lobby documents don’t indicate whether they have been lobbying the Canadian government about drones. Thales may be trying to sell Canada its Watchkeeper drones.

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Watchkeeper still not introduced

Britain’s Watchkeeper drone still hasn’t been deployed, now more than two and a half years overdue. The surveillance drone system, purchased from Elbit Systems of Israel and Thales of France, has been plagued by delays.

Delays have been blamed on the fact that the drone hasn’t achieve certification to operate in civilian airspace, but it isn’t clear why a military drone first intended for use in remote parts of Afghanistan needs to be certified for civilian airspace. Something smells, but Britain’s press doesn’t seem inclined to make deeper enquiries about this troubled billion pound quagmire.

Much was made last year about France’s decision to study the Watchkeeper, with an eye to buying it for France. The decision smacked of doing a favour to the French arms company Thales, and the defence partner UK MOD. It would be very surprising indeed if the French acquired Watchkeeper drones, but in the bizarre world of the arms trade, nothing can be discounted.

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Thales hiring drone supporter

Thales is seeking a Head of Watchkeeper Support for its beleagured Watchkeeper drone project. Watchkeeper is a billion pound joint venture of Thales of France and Elbit Systems of Israel to provide a new surveillance drone for the UK, based on Israel’s Hermes 450 drone.

The Watchkeeper drone programme is months overdue. Originally billed as needed by UK forces in Afghanistan, the medium altitude, long endurance drone did not materialise as expected, suggesting that it wasn’t as needed as claimed by its supporters.

Last month the French government agreed to study the Watchkeeper drone with a view of acquiring it for its own military purposes.

After placing the Watchkeeper on its ‘Programmes of Concern’ list last year, the UK government has been remarkably quiet since then about the failure of the programme to meet its delivery date expectations.

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Canadian government to buy armed drones

David Pugliese of the Ottawa citizen is reporting that the Canadian government is planning to spend $1 billion on armed drones. Drone companies from around the world are being invited to submit information, although in reality the only serious contenders are companies from the United States and Israel, both of which have a long history of developing and using armed drones.

The UK also has been using armed drones to attack enemies in Afghanistan, but probably doesn’t have a drone of its own which is ready to be armed. When the UK conducts attacks with drones in Afghanistan it uses American Predator drones, which have been used by the US military to attack and assassinate enemies in a growing number of countries around the world.

Ironically it isn’t necessary to have an armed drone to carry out attacks. Any drone which can ‘paint’ a target can be used in conjunction with an armed jet, helicopter, artillery, or missile to attack an enemy.

But the quarrelsome Harper government is likely to concur with military recommendations to purchase armed drones, in a decision likely designed to appeal to its male conservative supporters.

It is uncertain whether the Canadian government plans to patrol the arctic with armed drones, but the idea raises the spectre of armed drones lost in the arctic. Even under the best of circumstances, drones crash at an alarming rate.

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