Archive for category Heron drone

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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France continues to support Israeli arms industry with drones purchases

France will soon be testing Watchkeeper drones on French soil, according to reports this week.

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.

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Australians complain about their training on drones

An article in the Ottawa Citizen, repeating information from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, showed that some members of the  Australian military are highly critical of the training received on Heron drones, rented through Macdonald Dettwiler, a Canadian company.

Australian Wing Commander Jonathan McMullan complained about ‘low experience civilians’ training highly experienced pilots.

The article did not make explicityly clear who provided the trainers. Macdonald Dettwiler, a Canadian company, provided the Heron drones to the Canadian and Australian military for use in Afghanistan, as an agent for Israeli Aerospace Industries, the manufacturer.

This article states that Macdonald Dettwiler Associates has a training contract with the Australian military, so perhaps we can guess that it is MDA that the Australian officer is complaining about.

The current contract between MDA and the Australian military to provide drones and training appears to end in December 2012. Three Heron drones rented from MDA had flown a total of 4600 flight hours by May, 2011. This extensive. A June 8, 2012 article from ABC online provides a wealth of details about Australia’s use of drones.

While Israel is not directly involved in the Afghanistan occupation, Israeli arms companies have provided weapons and trainers, including a range of drones to a variety of countries.


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Canada testing drones in the arctic

The Canadian Press is reporting that drones will be tested in the summer of 2012 by Canadian Forces in the Canadian arctic, at Inuvik NWT, and at Churchill Manitoba. Drones have already been tested at Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord, in the High Arctic. This information was given to a Senate committee by Lt.-Gen. Walter Semianiw, head of the army’s domestic command. For an extensive transcript of Semianiw’s conversation in the Senate, go here.

The Scaneagle, a small tactical drone, appears to have been used in the arctic in 2011 during annual exercises (Nanook). Note, I have not seen the Scaneagle drones referred to by name by Canadian government sources. It isn’t completely clear what drones are undergoing ongoing testing in the arctic.

A proposal by Northrup Grumman to provide Canada with Global Hawk drones was made public last week. The competition to provide Canada with drones is heating up, as Project JUSTAS proceeds to a conclusion. Project JUSTAS is the initiative to assess Canada’s need for drones, and to presumably recommend a drone acquisition programme.

Northrup Grumman is likely facing an uphill battle. The current Canadian government has favoured Israeli drone manufacturers in the past and heavily supports the supremicist regime. MacDonald Dettwiler, the agent for IAI which manufactures the Israeli Heron drone, already has experience providing satellite surveillance of the Arctic to the Canadian government. Although Macdonald Dettwiler’s relationship with the government may be strained at present, as the government has waffled on full funding of arctic satellite surveillance. This report, by Kole Kilbrada, documents some of the lobbying efforts of Israeli aerospace companies with respect to providing drones to the Canadian military.

Semianiw did not provide information relating to the drone testing facility in Suffield Alberta. It is unclear whether military drone testing is continuing there, although a recent tender for trailers to move several ‘helicopter’ drones gives an indication about what might be happening. Suffield has conditions in winter that might mimic Canadian arctic conditions.


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Heron TP crash ramifications continue

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that four months after the crash of one of Israel’s Heron TP drones (UAVs) that its Heron TP fleet is still grounded. Israel had touted the airliner sized drone was capable of reaching Iran, and was trying to sell the drone to other countries, including Germany. France had agreed to buy the Heron prior to the crash, but hasn’t signed the deal.

One wing fell off the drone when it was asked to perform a flight manoeuver beyond its capabilities. According to JP the Israeli Air Force suspected that a new navigation component had disrupted automatic flight systems.

The crash presents Israel and IAI, the company that produces the Heron TP, with enormous problems. At least three components of the drone appear to have been implicated in the failure. The new navigation component may be a threat to other components. By implication the original automatic flight system is vulnerable to interference. And most of all, what country will want to buy a UAV with an airframe so weak that it fails during flight manoeuvres, however extreme.

It remains to be seen whether the new government of France will use the crash as an excuse to cancel the contract. Crash has seriously undermined the credibility of Israel’s heretofore invulnerable drones industry, and must be a drag on its plans to export drones worldwide. The crash presents an opportunity for European campaigners to influence the new French government to cancel the contract to purchase the Heron TP

One of the legs of Israel’s threat to Iran has been compromised at a time when the last possible window for it to attack its neighbour is approaching. Drones crash at an alarming rate. This crash and the crash of a sophisticated US spy drone in Iran earlier in the year show just how vulnerable that drones can be, and how their electronic systems are subject to failure induced internally or from defensive forces.


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Canada to go for drones? Maybe armed ones?

Two Canadian academics have suggested drones as a partial alternative to Canada’s purchase of F-35 jets. Their article in the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal was summarised in a press release from Steven Staples of the Rideau Institute.

Calling Canada’s participation in the floundering F-35 programme an ‘expensive mistake’, Michael Byers and Stuart Webb called on Canada to drop out of the F-35 programme. Instead Canada should keep its F-18 fighters going a few years longer and then acquire a ‘mixed’ range of aircraft that would include drones.

There has been a lot of opposition to the grandiose F-35 project for many reasons, including the impracticability of the F-35 for monitoring and protecting Canada’s arctic. Among the partial alternatives that have been proposed in the past were fleets of drones stationed at various airports across the arctic.

The Canadian military has been remarkably restrained in its use of drones. Unlike other countries that have moved quickly to acquire drones and build domestic drone manufacturing programmes, Canada has moved slowly. Although Canada used drones during its participation in NATO’s occupation of Afghanistan, there isn’t any evidence that it engaged in targetted assassinations that have become a hallmark of the American and British efforts. Nor is it known to have violated Pakistani airspace.

Canada’s recent experience in Afghanistan involved leasing of Israeli drones through their Canadian representative MacDonald Dettwiler. It has since returned them to the vendor Macdonald Dettwiler, IAI’s Canadian associate.This seemed to be a much cheaper alternative than purchasing drones, although I haven’t spotted any public evaluation of the programme.

Recently MacDonald Dettwiler has been advertising that it provides privately operated drone surveillance services from its base in Kandahar Afghanistan. It offers drone surveillance paid for by the hour. Online photos show a Heron drone; it isn’t clear whether Heron TPs or other surveillance aircraft are available. MDA is using testimonial videos from Canadian and Australian military on its web site.

Canadian forces in Afghanistan also used a variety of smaller surveillance drones.The Canadian military has used small Scaneagle drones, leased from Boeing, in Afghanistan and more recently on its ships.

The Canadian government has had several programmes to investigate the use of MALE (Medium Altitude Long Endurance) drones by the military, the JUSTAS programme, Joint Airborne ISR Capatility (JAIC), and  Project Noctua. These appear to be ‘acquisition’ programmes. Apparently the JUSTAS programme is still in progress, and may be considering a wider range of drones than just the ‘MALE’ class. There isn’t evidence of a solid intention for the Canadian government to promote a domestic drones production industry.

It is worth speculating about where Canada will go in the future with respect to drones. There also seems to be a trend toward HALE drones (High Altitude Long Endurance) represented by such drones as Israeli Hermes 900, and Heron TP drones, as well as Predator variants from the US.

Several countries have developed and used armed drones. A couple of years ago Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay refused to rule out Canada acquiring armed drones, though he acknowledged that arming Canada’s surveillance drones at that time would create ‘contractual issues’. He wasn’t asked whether he would ask private drone contractors to manage the deployment and operation of armed drones capable of attacking adversaries directly.

It isn’t difficult to predict the broad intentions of Canada’s neoconservative government. An interview by Defence Minster Peter MacKay on CBC suggested his government wants a ‘long term’ solution to drones, ‘yet to be worked out’. That was in 2008. In November 2011, the militarist MacKay stated on  that “The capability of drones goes up exponentially when you arm them like a fighter jet”. However he indicated that no decision had been made to go ahead with a major drone purchase. However also reported that Canada Public Works had put contractors on notice that if Project JUSTAS was approved Canada would spend up to a billion dollars on drones, including attack drones, although they did not reference a current source.

Will the Canadian government continue its love affair with Israeli technology? Will it continue to support drones used by the Israeli state, which are ‘battle tested’ in the occupation of the West Bank? Will they continue to lease ‘off the shelf’ drones where required? Once freed from the F-35 albatross, will they seek to acquire armed drone capacity, like their American, British, and Israeli friends?

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French purchase of Heron TP may not be a done deal

In July, 2011 the French military announced that it was to become the first purchaser of the new Heron TP, the very large drone produced by Israeli arms manufacturer Israel Aerospace Industries, which is a partner with French arms company Dassault Aviation.

The Heron TP would replace the Harfang drone (itself based on a smaller Heron drone).

A variety of reasons were given for the French choosing the Israeli drone over alternatives, including the suggestion (denied) that the makers of the US Predator weren’t interested in bidding, and the wish to be able to operate independently of France’s American allies.

French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet was reported in Defence Industry Daily as saying:

“We could have found a cheaper, more efficient, quicker solution, but at the [unacceptable] price of long-term dependence. No proposition was made by Reaper, which did not want to share, nor to adapt to French standards…”

French officials said that they expected to complete negotiations for the deal by the end of 2012.

In early 2012 the French Senate released an audit report sharply critical of the selection of the Heron TP, over the similarly sized Predator B drone produced in the United States by General Atomics. According to the report the Heron TP is more expensive, has reduced performance, and has smaller payloads than its Predator B competitor. Furthermore the Predator B has been flown for many more hours than the newly developed Heron TP (one thousand times more hours, to date), and therefore should be more reliable.

The report was also skeptical of IAI’s ability to support the operations of the Heron on combat fronts, calling maintenance support from the company ‘inefficient’. The report noted that a smaller Heron drone damaged in Afghanistan was still in the possession of IAI in Israel 18 months later.

France’s influential Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement have launched a major campaign to stop the purchase. Small protests against the deal have proliferated around France.

Critics of the purchase must have felt justified this week when a Heron TP being test flown in Israel crashed to the ground after losing a wing.

One wonders whether the internal resistance to the Heron TP purchase, and the changes brought on by the upcoming French election, might yet scuttle the deal to buy the Israeli drone.

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