Posts Tagged Elbit Systems
A Watchkeeper drone crashed on Salisbury Plain in Southwestern England this week. The medium altitude, long endurance drone was adapted from the Israeli Hermes 450 drone in a billion pound upgrade, largely focused on making the drone compliant with civilian air regulations.
It is the third Watchkeeper to crash.
Dozens of the drones were purchased from a French-Israeli consortium but almost all have been mothballed, and the UK MOD has recently revealed that it has only six qualified, competent pilots to fly them. (After this crash perhaps only five). None are known to have been in active military service, save a perfunctory ‘fly-around’ arranged just before UK forces were withdrawn from Afghanistan. The boondoggle programme hasn’t received critical examination in Parliament because both major political parties had a role in its inception.
A recent report that Watchkeeper has been armed hasn’t been confirmed by MOD.
Several years late, and costing almost a billion pounds, Britain’s Watchkeeper drone was finally introduced to combat in Afghanistan this summer just in time to be withdrawn again. As predicted, the introduction was little more than a ‘fly-around’ to give the military a chance to say their new drone had been useful.
The Watchkeeper drone is based on the Israeli Hermes 450, built by Elbit Systems, and widely used in surveillance in the West Bank and attacks on Gaza. The British version was created by a consortium of Elbit System, and Thales of France, using an engine produced by an Elbit subsidiary in England, and other parts made in the UK or imported.
In November 2014 the UK military proclaimed themselves satisfied with their new drone, claiming to have used it for surveillance leading to a strike against the Taliban. Then the Watchkeeper was packed up and taken back to the UK, with no word on future deployment. Watchkeeper is pointedly not being used in Iraq. Unarmed Watchkeeper is best suited to support of ground troops, and there isn’t a significant role for it at present.
For a major, very costly, military procurement of a ‘leading edge’ technology, the Watchkeeper drone programme has had little coverage. No doubt this results from military and government fears of raising a public backlash, for dealing with an Israeli arms company at a time when Israel was attacking Gaza and killing hundreds of people, many of them women and children. As one of Israel’s largest arms companies, Elbit Systems is deeply involved with all aspects of the Israeli military, the occupation, attacks on Gaza, and any large scale surveillance of Palestinians. Many Elbit principals are part of the Israeli military establishment, and Elbit advertises its products as ‘conflict tested’.
None of the major political parties have taken any interest in Watchkeeper. It is a legacy project of the Blair government, and none of the parties appear willing to own up to having transferred several hundred million pounds to an Israeli arms company while Israel was using similar drones in committing atrocities in Gaza.
Israeli arms company Elbit Systems has won a contract that may ultimately be worth up to $1 billion worth of work on US border systems from the US Customs and Border Protection. It won the contract from out of the hands of US corporate giant like General Dynamics, Raytheon, Lockheed, etc. Another giant US arms company had lost the work after delays, according to business paper Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and huge increases in public costs. There was scathing criticism from some sources, that Elbit, a company that had been involved in the previous failed contract as a subcontractor, had been awarded the new contract.
The work is to provide a series of towers along the US-Mexico border with sensing equipment for spotting ‘illicit human crossings’, at from 5-7.5 miles away, in any weather, day or night. The system will further sterilise the border zone, preventing any unregulated movement in the area.
CBP officials wanted to hire someone who already had the technology developed. Perhaps unsurprising that they picked Elbit, whose products have been developed as part of its active role in the occupation of the Palestinian territories. Elbit Systems, which has been criticised for its work building border systems on Israel’s apartheid wall, sells a wide range of technology for border fortification.
The long delayed Watchkeeper surveillance drone programme has been barely in the news for months, even as deadlines were missed, and the UK military operations in Afghanistan wind down. But news this week may put it in the spotlight again.
There is a joint summit between Francois Hollande and David Cameron this week at RAF Brize Norton this week.
This is ostensibly to restart the joint defense treaty/arms trade strategy that the two countries negotiated in 2010, which ploughed into quicksand when the Parti Socialiste won the French elections in 2012 and promptly reviewed the arms procurement arrangements made by the Sarkozy government.
Writing in Defense News, Andrew Chuter and Pierre Tran have speculated that the conversation could involve a statement of French interest in the British-Israeli Watchkeeper drone.
Thales, the French arms company, is the prime contractor and partner with Elbit Systems of Israel in the Watchkeeper programme, which has belatedly resulted in a British built drone based on the Israeli Hermes 450. Thales fortunes appeared to rise after the election of the Socialistes, while its rival Dassault appeared to fall.
Thales has been lobbying hard to have the French government buy the Watchkeeper drone, and French operators have flown the drone at Parc Aberporth in Wales. It is also believed that they may fly the drone this summer in Canada, possibly at the UK training base at Suffield Aberta.
Also discussed at the summit may be a proposal to build an armed combat drone, in which France’s Dassault and Britain’s BAE might build the airframe, Thales and Silex the electronics, Rolls Royce and Snecma the engine, according the Chuter and Tran. Proponents want the programme to begin immediately, ostensibly so that the French air force that evaluate how an armed drone would fit into ‘the operational picture’. Though why they couldn’t just use a Predator drone acquired from the US for that purpose isn’t clear.
In September 2011 a delegation of British MPs visited Israel, and among the sites they visited was Elbit Systems, suppliers of drones to the UK for use in Afghanistan and cocontractors on the billion pound Watchkeeper Project. Watchkeeper is based on the Elbit Hermes 450.
The MPs were all part of the Conservative Friends of Israel group. At least three delegations of Conservative Friends of Israel have visited Elbit Systems while in Israel. Israel has been remarkably effective at using parliamentary visits to push its point of view, and about two dozen Conservative MPs have gone to Israel in 2011 alone. That they always visit Elbit Systems says a lot about how Conservatives in the UK view relations with Israel and where Israel sees the need to influence British politicians.
Britain, like France, has a large arms trade with Israel, and this doesn’t seem likely to decline under this Conservative government.
Elbit Systems, the largest private Israeli arms company, also owns 100% of Telefunken RACOMS, the German train technology company.
Telefunken RACOMS products include train communications equipment. It also acts as a conduit in Europe for related equipment from its Tadiran Communications and other Elbit subsidiaries.
Elbit acquired Telfunken RACOMS in 2004 for $25 million through its subsidiary Tadiran Communications. Telefunken RACOMS was a long time supplier to the German military. In 2006 it won a euro 19 million contract with the German military to supply (unspecified).
Telefunken RACOMS is based in Ulm, Germany.
In 2007, Telefunken RACOMS, acting for its owner Tadiran Communications, won a $100 million contract to provide radios to the Austrian military.
Also, in 2007, Telefunken RACOMS was working with Siemens on a high speed rail project in China, where Telefunken would provide the communications component.
In May, 2011, it was announced that Telefunken RACOMS had won a 1 million contract to provide radios to the Munich Metro.
It appears that the acquisition of Telefunken RACOMS added to the variety of military products that Elbit had to sell. It also provided a European portal for sales of products from Elbit’s Israeli companies.
Israel has created a high tech, digitised ‘command and control’ network to defend its borders and maintain its control over the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Elbit Systems is the prime contractor for Israel’s ‘DAP’ system (Tzayad Digital Army Programme). DAP is a 10 year,$500 million programme funded by Israeli taxes and American subsidies. First launched in 2004 DAP has been deployed in the West Bank, Gaza, and along the Lebanon border.
Elbit calls DAP its ‘master programme for computerising all land force operations’.
It appears that the primary Elbit divisions working on DAP are Elbit Systems Land, and C4I Tadiran.
DAP links all levels and locations of the Israeli army into a single, secure system. (C4I)
DAP is being designed to deal with High Intensity Conflict (war) and Low Intensity Conflict (border defense, fighting insurgents, and ‘occupation duties’ in the occupied territories-ed).
It appears that one of the functions of DAP is to link soldiers and commanders in with the system of sensors arrayed on the ‘separation barrier’ (apartheid wall) and along the border, using the ‘TORC2H’ system.
In 2010, Elbit Systems got a $298 million contract to the apply its DAP related technology to the Australian armed Forces. According to Australia Defense Magazine, the Elbit bid had the advantage that had been proven in service with the Israeli Defence Force.
(Thus, it appears the Australian government has made this contract because Elbit’s technology has had action with the Israeli military. Surely a motivator for the Israeli arms industry to continue to promote armed conflict with neighbours and the Palestinians. The Israeli military, government, and arms industry are closely interlinked. Many cabinet ministers become arms company officials, many arms company officials are former army officers and are still in the reserves).