Archive for category Israel

Israeli government arms company scores big on eve of Canadian election

In the dying days of the Harper government, days before the election call, Canadian Defence Minister Jason Kenney announced a plan to give Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) a large contract with the Canadian Department of Defense. IAI (which is wholly owned by the Israeli government) co-produces the Iron Dome missile defence system, along with Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, also an Israeli government corporation. Iron Dome is a radar system that allows Israeli military forces to detect and shoot down the primitive rockets fired at Israel by militants in occupied Gaza. It has been criticised as having limited coverage, and being very expensive. Its development was largely financed by US subsidies, which were always controversial because of the cost.

The $250,000,000 plan would buy technology from the  Israeli arms company for Iron Dome-based radar technology related to ‘incoming threats to Canadian forces’. The exact nature of the technology is ambiguous, and there was little to indicate that the Canadian government was in the market for the technology prior to the plan being announced. It is uncertain what incoming threats that Canadian forces would face in the realistic scenarios they might be faced with. While Iron Dome is effective at downing relatively slow rockets fired at a distance, it hasn’t in the past worked for rockets fired at close range and might not work for faster missiles. In its recent deployment in Afghanistan most ‘incoming’ threats were rifle fire and mortar rounds, not rockets.

There appears to have been no call for proposals, and no plan for competitive bidding. The actual contract would be carried out largely by Rheinmetail Canada, a German company without much record of activity in Canada.

Developers of Iron Dome have been searching for money to develop further the technology underlying Iron Dome for a variety of purposes. A US Senate report has called for more technology transfer to the US, if it is to continue to fund the project.  It is hard to avoid the implication that Canadian government money will be used to further develop Israeli proprietary technology, without Canadian equity participation, and without safeguards to prevent the technology being used in the continuing illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. Was it part of a backroom deal to subsidise Israel’s arms trade, as US funding becomes less reliable?

While the deal was covered in a variety of Israeli mainstream news sources, and Canadian Jewish media, it was not covered by Canadian media, despite the controversial timing of the deal and the size of the contract.

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Israel scores big arms deal from Canadian supporters. More to follow?

The government of Canada has announced that it is spending a quarter billion Canadian dollars to purchase ‘Iron Dome’ technology created by two Israeli arms companies. Iron Dome is the missile detection and response system used by Israel in response to objects lobbed at Israel from occupied Palestine.

The very expensive system has been massively subsidised by the US, and Israeli officials have been asking for more money to be spent on development of the system, which has many flaws. The Canadian purchase will no doubt provide a cash influx that can be used to develop the system further.

Iron Dome was developed by Rafael Advanced Defence Systems and Israeli Aerospace Industries, an arms company wholly owned by the state of Israel.  Sales by Israeli arms companies are often touted as technology transfers to the purchaser, but are also technology transfers to the apartheid state, since Israeli government and corporate players gain access to sensitive customer secrets and technology.

The radar technology will be provided to Canada by Rheinmetall Defence and Elta Systems, a subsidiary of Israeli Aerospace Industries, in a contract expected to begin in 2017. Rheinmetall Canada also works with the giant private Israeli arms company Elbit Systems, nominally the biggest competitor of Israeli Aerospace Industries in other areas of the arms trade. Rheinmetall has registered for lobbying activities in the past with the Canadian government.

No justification for the purchase was given by the government of Canada in its press release, but it is widely known that elements of the Canadian cabinet are strong supporters of the right wing Netanyahu regime. The Canadian military wants to purchase Predator drones from an American company, but with Canadian cabinet support strong for Israel, it is very possible that the contract for drone purchase will also be from an Israeli company.

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French company Thales would rent out Watchkeeper drone paid for by UK taxpayer

Back in July, 2014, Defense News reported that the giant French arms company Thales was trying to find markets for the imaging technology carried on the Watchkeeper drone. Thales was also interested in renting out the technology with the Watchkeeper drone included.

The Watchkeeper drone is based on the Hermes 450 drone produced by Israeli arms company Elbit Systems. It is produced by a company 51% owned by Elbit and 49% by Thales. It contains several components made by the Israeli company, included engines made in an Elbit owned plant in Lichfield, UK. Elbit Systems advertises its drones as ‘conflict tested’, due to their use in successive attacks on Gaza which resulted in thousands of deaths.

The UK government spent almost £1 billion to have Hermes redesigned and 54 drones produced. The programme was severely delayed and no drones were produced until immediately before Britain withdrew its forces from Afghanistan.

Though the UK government paid the development costs of Watchkeeper, that technology would be sold or rented on by Thales as a profit making enterprise. There is no published evidence that the government would benefit from exploitation of this expenditure.

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‘Conflict tested’ drones for surveillance of Brazilian World Cup matches

Brazil has bought four Hermes 450 drones for surveillance over stadiums of the FIFA World Cup football matches to commence in June, 2014.  Intended to prevent terrorism during the games, no good case has been made that the Brazilian games will be targets of terrorism. Or that the drones will be useful in preventing it. Rather, the drones are more likely to be used monitoring protests that are sparked by the matches and Brazilian government policies, and building a ‘security state’. People attending the matches can expect pervasive surveillance, from drones overhead to facial recognition cameras on the ground.

As well, there may be a need to protect football fans and nearby residents from the drones themselves. Hermes 450 drones do not appear to have received widely accepted certification to fly in civilian air space,** although the Israeli government has certified them in Israel. Last year, during the Confederations Cup matches, Brazilian officials appear to have acknowledged this failing by planning to restrict civilian air traffic near the game venues.

British-Israeli Watchkeeper drones (which are based on the Hermes 450) have been recently certified by the UK to fly in civilian airspace but the technology that permitted this to occur does not appear to have been incorporated into the Hermes 450 drones sold to Brazil. There has been an effort worldwide to make drones safe to fly in populated airspace, including large European government subsidies documented by Statewatch and the Transnational Institute.

Drones in general have a much higher crash rate than piloted aircraft, and several Hermes 450 drones crashes have been recorded from a relatively small worldwide fleet.

Hermes 450 drones have been widely used by Israel for surveillance and assassinations in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. So often used that Elbit Systems advertises their products as ‘conflict tested’.

Elbit Systems has a strong marketing programme in South America and has sold drones to several countries.

Brazil appears to have paid $25 million for the four drones.

**If anyone knows differently, please let me know.

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Brits keep Anglo-Israeli Watchkeeper drone low-profile (UAV)

There is startlingly little fuss being made over the imminent introduction of the long delayed Anglo-Israeli Watchkeeper drone expected in just a few weeks. Delayed by years, the drone has been an embarrassment to both the British military and the prime contractor Thales.

Originally touted as essential for Britain’s intervention in Afghanistan, the drone will likely never be introduced to that operational theatre, due to the delays. The army has since found that it could do just as well with armed Predator-type drones, as well as rented Israeli surveillance drones. Meanwhile, the long delays in finishing Watchkeeper have been blamed on the need for ‘civilian airspace certification’, although it hasn’t been satisfactorily explained why that is needed since UK military drones have so far operated in remote areas, where conflict with civilian air traffic is not an issue.

Perhaps the greatest reason that Watchkeeper introduction has been kept to a low profile is that the drone is primarily an Israeli creation. Watchkeeper’s earliest years coincided with the infamous Cast Lead attack on Gaza, when hundreds of Palestinians, including a very large number of women and children, were killed by Israeli forces. Drones were heavily involved in that attack, and subsequent ones.

Watchkeeper is the anglicised version of the Hermes 450 drone used throughout the Cast Lead attacks, and many times since. Its maker, Elbit Systems, brags that their drones are ‘combat tested’, and their company officials have noted that the active participation of Elbit designers in Israel’s military activities means that the Hermes 450 is constantly updated and fixed to reflect the experiences of the Israeli military (which are largely gained in attacks on Gaza and suppression of Palestinians in the West Bank).** So, Britain’s Watchkeeper drone owes a debt to Palestinians suffering under Israeli occupation.

Watchkeeper’s first flights were at the Megido airfield in northern Israel. (They were originally scheduled for and airport in the occupied territories, until British officials objected to the ‘optics’ of that). There is considerable Israeli equipment and intellectual property on Watchkeeper, including the take off and landing system, the engine, and the basic design. It has never been certain what Elbit’s returns from the £1 billion contract have been, but they will have been considerable.

Britain’s embrace of the Hermes 450 model has also been good for Elbit. Britain’s rented Hermes 450’s have flown thousands of hours in Afghanistan (several have crashed). And Watchkeeper has flown countless test hour from Parc Aberporth in Wales. Those experiences have filtered back to Elbit, and no doubt been incorporated into the design of updated Hermes models, including the Hermes 900 now being sold around the world. These updated Hermes drones will eventually be used again in the suppression of the occupied Palestinians, meaning that British use of Hermes-based drones have had a direct effect on subjugated people in the Middle East.

**It’s possible that Israeli arms company employees are actually involved specifically in the deployment of Israeli drones in combat situations, although this hasn’t been confirmed directly.

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New Report on Israel and Drones

Drone Wars UK recently published a briefing paper (Israel and the Drone Wars: New Briefing from Drone Wars UK) that describes the Israeli drones industry, and Israel’s contribution to the proliferation of drones worldwide.

Drone Wars UK  states that it “aims to be a source of information on the growing use of armed drones.” It has become the most credible source of information on drones in the UK, and one of the best sources of information on drones in the world.

It maintains a growing database of large drone crashes world wide.

 

 

 

 

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My 2014 Prediction: Canada will announce purchase of Israeli drones

The Canadian government long ago said that it intended to buy a drone system for the Canadian military, and implemented a programme to determine needs and set out criteria for purchase, in the form of Project JUSTAS (Joint Uninhabited Surveillance and Target Acquisition System).

Very little information has been released to the public that would allow anyone to follow the deliberations of this body, even as a procession of lobbyists have had access to all levels of government.

In October 2013 MacDonald Dettwiler announced that it would provide Canada with Raven hand-launched drones, and associated training and maintenance. It isn’t clear whether this acquisition was related to Project JUSTAS, but clearly the Canadian government is still in the market for large surveillance, or even armed drones.

In November, 2013 the Canadian Defence Minister, Rob Nicholson, welcomed the Israeli Minister of Defence, Moshe Ya’alon, and was effusive about the relationship between Canada and the apartheid regime. Nicholson stated ‘I am confident that we will find avenues to expand our defence relations even further in the near future.” Several ministers in the Conservative government waste no opportunities to support the Netanyahu regime.

While no specifics were released it seems likely that the two discussed the possibility of Canada buying Israeli drones, as Israel has become the largest retailer of drones worldwide. Several Israeli companies make large surveillance drones, of which Israeli Aerospace Industries (Heron family of drones) and Elbit Systems (Hermes family of drones) are the largest. Elbit Systems often tries to sell its drones as ‘turn key’ systems, manufactured in the buyer country to permit ‘manufacturing offsets’. Both companies provide drones to the Israeli military for repressing Palestinians, and both drone systems have been implicated with deaths of civilians in Israeli drone attacks on Gaza. Canada has rented Heron drones from IAI for use by Canadian forces in Afghanistan.

Aside from Israeli companies, America’s Northrup Grumman has been aggressively trying to sell their Global Hawk drone to Canada. However Global Hawk is very expensive and likely to be unpopular with the Conservatative base.

General Atomics, which makes the Predator/Reaper class of drones has been less in evidence, perhaps sensing that the quagmire of Canadian defence procurement is best avoided. Predator/Reapers are cheaper, but are clearly thought of as armed drones, which may be a step the Conservative government isn’t ready to make as an election approaches.

Another possibility for a Canadian drone purchase would be the British-Israeli Watchkeeper, which will be part of UK military exercises at CFB Suffield in 2014. Watchkeeper will likely have civilian airspace certification. The Canadian military claims it doesn’t neen civilian authority to fly drones domestically, but certification would make it easier to fly drones to monitor pipeline protesters, (and other Canadian dissidents), which must surely be one of the goals of the Conservative government. Watchkeeper has a very large Israeli component, which would allow the Harper government to support the Netanyahu government while keeping the purchase within NATO. However the Canadian public is sure to react to buying any equipment from the UK military after the submarine debacle of a few years ago.

The Conservative ministers would have trouble facing their Israeli counterparts if they wasted the most obvious  opportunity to make a high profile purchase of military technology from the apartheid regime.

Based on the information that is publicly available it my ‘best guess’ that the Canadian government will announce that it intends to buy one of the Israeli drone options in 2014.

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