Posts Tagged IAI
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.
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……)
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)
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.