Posts Tagged IAI

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 Use Israeli Drone in Libya

The French military has been using Israeli `Harfang` drones in its operations in Libya.

The Harfang is based on Israeli Aircraft Industry`s Heron drones, and is produced by EADS and BAE. It is said to be an `interim` drone programme, and is used in Afghanistan by French forces. The French have recently announced the purchase of the Heron TP (The `Eitan`), a much larger version of the Heron on which Harfang is based. The Eitan will be introduced about 2014.

The Harfang drones were flown from Sicily to Libya and have 25 operators. Control of the drones is based in Sicily. It isnt clear how many drones are involved, but there is no evidence that any have been produced beyond the original four or so created a few years ago.


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Israeli arms exports pressured by peace and economic uncertainty

Israel has had a burgeoning arms industry. The three biggest Israeli arms companies IAI, Elbit Systems, and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, had orders backlogs in 2010 of $16 billion. 100,000 Israelis work in an industry that sold $7.2 billion in arms in 2010.

The World Tribune online, reports that Midroog, the Israeli credit rating industry says that international trends present challenges for the Israeli arms industry. 70% of Israelis arm production is exported.

Moog worries that with the end of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that orders for Israeli arms will be dropped. And that the US is encouraging US arms companies to develop new markets, in competition with Israeli companies.

(This blog post will be expanded……)

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Israel May Sell Battle Tested Drones to Finland

Far from losing business after Israel’s brutal attacks on Gaza recently, the Israeli arms exporters have enjoyed a mini-boom, as a number of countries have lined up to buy battle tested hardware from the Israelis, who have been supplying leading edge drone technology to war zones around the world.

After Georgia attacked Russia recently, aided by Israeli Hermes drones, the Russians were persuaded to arm themselves with Israeli drones.

This points to the high motivation that arms companies have to encourage their host countries and their customers to skirmish and be involved in campaigns, since without active campaign experience, new technology lacks credibility that can only be gained in warfare. Arms companies have a high motivation to encourage armed conflict, and to present armed conflict as a good solution to international problems.

Among the countries participating in Israel’s mini sales boom is Finland. Following is an article that describes the Finnish quest to acquire more drones:

“Finland’s Ministry of Defense has narrowed the field in its competition to provide the Finnish army with mini unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Of the five remaining bidders, four are Israeli firms with deep ties to the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Syrian Golan Heights. In addition, three of the models offered are or have been in active recent use in Israeli military operations in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and south Lebanon. The Finnish army already employs a UAV produced by Israel Aerospace Industries, as well as other “battle-tested” Israeli weapons including anti-armor missiles, artillery munitions, avionics and more…..” (more)

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Where is the French Drone Programme Going?

Defence Industry Daily describes the situation in the French drone programme here.

Essentially, the French have a number of programmes possible but do not to have a clear picture of future needs.

Harfang, the EADS/IAI clone of the Heron TP drone has been built and deployed in Afghanistan, in a programme plagued with problems and delays.

France could also take on UK Watchkeeper drones, from the rival Israeli drones manufacturer Elbit Systems, and its French partner. The Watchkeeper is due for deployment in 2011.

Or the French could buy US MK-9 Reaper drones, which have higher capacity and are much easier to arm and more flexible with armaments.

Defence Industry Daily claims that the French will buy 65-70 medium drones with the decision to be made in 2011.

They could also chose the BAE Mantis produced by their British ally. Or the Talarion, a European collaboration between France, Spain, and Germany which seem increasingly unlikely to be selected. Talarion is a jet powered drone at an early stage of development.

DI Daily also suggest that SAGEM (French arms company) is developing additional drones and there is one under development by Dassault/Thales.

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France’s Harfang Drone

The Harfang drone is a French version of Israeli Aerospace Industry’s Heron drone, with the plane and its computer being built by EADS and IAI. The engine is built by the Austrian company BRP Rotax. It is a MALE drone (medium altitude, long endurance).

Only four drones seem to  have been made, and there have been lots of production problems, especially building a navigation system compatible with the satellites available.

The Harfang has limited speed and manueverability, but was deployed in 2008 with French forces in Afghanistan, specifically at Bagram Air Base. One crashed there in March 2009 due to weather and software error.

There have been lots of problem with the Harfang, even after initial manufacturing problems were solved. In 2009, not long after the deployment to Afghanistan, 2 of the 3 Harfangs were grounded, causing the French to consider an emergency purchase of American Reaper drones. In October 2009 the French Defence Minister Herve Morin complained about slow Israeli response with respect to spare parts.

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Canada Scraps Drone Programme

In what has to be a surprise move, Canadian Forces has announced that its drone programme will end with the return of Canadian troops from Afghanistan in July, 2011. Task Force Erebus was a little discussed programme to provide aerial surveillance for Canadian troops in the field.

Canadian Forces leased Heron drones from Israel Aerospace Industries, an arm of the Israeli government run by Yair Shamir, son of the former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. The programme was managed by IAI’s Canadian partner, MacDonald Dettwiler.

Major Dave Bolton, present commander of Project Erebus said that the squadron would be disbanded after the Afghanistan deployment. Bolton suggested that the programme would be in hiatus for a period of between two and five years, but that staff would still be available in the military to rejuvenate it.

This is quite a startling development. Most other militaries are expanding the role of drones in their militaries. While the Canadian military will have fewer uses for drones when not deployed internationally, it is surprising that they would give up much of the capability of having an operational drones squadron.

This begs many questions:

Is this part of a top down slashing of defence spending, perhaps to make way for costly new programmes like the F-35?

Is there another drones programme under wraps in Project JUSTAS?

Is the CF considering renting drone surveillance on an ad hoc basis from private contractors as required? (For example they might hire Israelis in places where having Israeli contractors on board would not provoke hostility).

Was the Heron drone so unsuitable or overpriced that CF wishes to wash its hands of the whole programme and begin anew?

These are questions unlikely to be answered quickly given the current Canadian government’s disinterest in providing information about its plans.

But it is a welcome development that the relationship with the Israeli arms industry will end.  The question is, with Israelis providing the most advanced drone technology, who will replace them?

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Chile to Choose Israeli Drone

It would appear that the Chilean air force plans to buy some Israeli drones.

The Chilean military is reported to be currently evaluating drones from three Israeli drones companies, Elbit Systems, (various Hermes configurations), Israeli Aerospace Industries (Heron), and Israeli Aeronautics Defense Systems Ltd (Aerostar).

The Chilean air force has already visited the various plants of these companies in Israel.

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Watchkeeper Delays May Force French to Buy American?

UPI reports that France will soon be deciding whether to buy medium altitude, long endurance surveillance drones.

The choice will likely come down to the US Predator drone, or the Israel Hermes drone, perhaps in its ‘Watchkeeper’ incarnation. But ‘Watchkeeper’ has been substantially delayed, and is now long past its original delivery date.

Does this mean that the French will be force to buy an American Predator drone which is immediately available? Is this a lost sale for the UK Watchkeeper drone, in a year when the Cameron government has said it plans to increase arms sales? Does it represent a possible shift away from Israel by the French government, which was embarrassed by the Israeli attacks on Gaza, the killings on the peace boat, the continued blockade of Gaza, and the resumption of settlement building? The Sarkozy government has been a strong supporter of Israel, but like other Israeli friends, has been badly let down.

UPI suggests that Watchkeeper is a joint venture between France and the UK, since it is produced in the UK by a French company Thales, working with Elbit Systems of Israel. (I haven’t previously noted any information that the Watchkeeper project was consciously a joint venture between the British and French governments).

Previously the role of medium altitude long endurance drones has been filled by ‘Harfang’ drones, of which two are deployed in Afghanstan, one in France, and one is being repaired in Israel. The Harfang drone is a variation of the Heron drone built by Israel Aerospace Industries.

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