Posts Tagged Israel

UK arms Watchkeeper drone, as drone killing spree continues

The UK has armed its Watchkeeper drones with Hellfire missiles, according to ‘The Strategy Page’. The report has apparently not been confirmed by UK Ministry of Defence.

Watchkeeper is a medium range, long endurance drone based on the Israeli Hermes 450.  The UK spent one billion pounds updating the Hermes 450 prototype, renaming it Watchkeeper, then basically mothballed the drone as it used its more effective US-purchased Predators drones to conduct campaigns of assassination in Afghanistan, Iraq and perhaps elsewhere.

Arming of Watchkeeper can be viewed as a UK MOD attempt to make the white elephant Watchkeeper look more relevant, as the MOD itself uses the more deadly Predators almost exclusively. Acting with the US, the UK has carried out countless armed sorties in Afghanistan and Iraq, killing a large number of individuals, most of whom were likely innocent civilians.

A view of how the UK uses its armed drones is provided by Drone Wars UK. Drone Wars UK has also commented on the lack of transparency that accompanies the UK’s drone attacks abroad.

 

 

 

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

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.

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

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.

, , , , ,

Leave a comment

Drones use acknowledged in Gaza Attacks

Israel as been somewhat circumspect with respect to its use of drones in a number of attacks on its neighbours, though most people know that drones have been a significant part of its armed forces. Israeli drone companies have bragged about their drones being ‘combat tested’, without specifying in exactly which combat.

This changed with Operation Protective Edge, the brutal and murderous campaign against Gaza in the summer of 2014. In Protective edge 2192 Palestinians died at the hands of Israeli attackers, 504 of them children. Since then there have been many official acknowledgements of drone use.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon announced that the Israeli military had been restructured to add more unmanned systems (drones). The Israel military has always been integrated with its arms industry, both supporting each other. After Protective Edge, the newspaper Ha’aretz reported that the ‘operation had offered the opportunity to showcase some of Israel’s technological advancements’. Ha’aetz reported that both Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 drones were used in Protective Edge.

Defense News reported Israeli commanders praising the Hermes 900 as an improvement over the Hermes 450. Though Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 drones are widely believed to be armed, Israeli commanders didn’t confirm that. They did, however, praise the smaller Skylark drones, which streamed target acquisition information to ‘a myriad of shooters on the ground’.

i-HLS has reported that both Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 drones were flown from Palmachim air base and were used round the clock in operations against Gaza. Hermes 900 also has a marine surveillance version that may be used in the ongoing campaign of harassment against Gaza fishermen.

Most of the drones (85%) used by the Israeli military are provided by Elbit Systems, according to IsraelDefense.

, , , ,

1 Comment

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.

, , ,

Leave a comment

Did Brits use Afghan drone strike to sell Anglo-Israeli Watchkeeper drone to the French?

France continues to debate the replacement of its older drones, and may buy an Israeli product. The UK military-industrial complex is trying to sell it to them.

Some elements of the French military support purchase of the Anglo Israeli Watchkeeper drone, which they viewed in Afghanistan, and pronounced satisfactory for their purposes. French chef d’état-major des armées,General Pierre de Villiers is advocating for Watchkeeper. France is holding a competitions for replacement of its tactical drones, to be completed in mid 2015. The competition would chose between offerings from Elbit/Thales, Sagem, Airbus, and a joint venture of Latécoère and Israeli Aircraft Industries. At least one of the proponents, Sagem, is attempting to ensure their ‘Shadow’ drone has civilian airspace certification, like Watchkeeper. (The French military was less enthusiastic about Watchkeeper after earlier trials).

The French debate is taking no account of the Israeli origin of two of the competitors. Watchkeeper is based on Elbit Systems’ Hermes 450 drone, widely used by the Israeli military. The British version is produced by a joint venture of the Israeli company and Thales of France, in which Elbit is the senior partner. Much of the intellectual property on which Watchkeeper is based is owned by Elbit; Elbit will benefit significantly from any sale of additional Watchkeeper drones. Thales is a French arms company favoured by the French Socialist party. Elbit markets its drone products as ‘combat proven’, thanks to its use in attacks on Gaza and the suppression of the West Bank.

Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) is teamed with French company Latécoère to sell the Israeli Heron drone. Heron is also used by the Israeli military in its illegal occupation of Palestine and has been sold and leased widely to other countries.

French generals viewed Watchkeeper in Afghanistan in mid 2014. It seems likely that a major reason for taking the new drone to Afghanistan was for sales promotion and public relations, since there don’t appear to be any significant military reasons for having it there, given that the last British forces with withdrawn immediately afterward (and the military already had fit for purpose drones in Afghanistan). Flight Global reports that Watchkeeper was used to pass information along to a Reaper drone which carried out a strike on an unspecified target.

If that is true, UK MOD was in the position of making a combat mission for the purpose of helping a French company sell a mostly Israeli drone to the French military. ‘Combat proven’ indeed.

(UK MOD denied the obvious conclusion that the Watchkeeper deployment was a demonstration or trial, in an interview with Tim Ripley of IHS Janes Defence Weekly. It isn’t clear whether Ripley was aware of the French contingent viewing the Watchkeeper deployment).

, , , , , ,

Leave a comment

British-Israeli Watchkeeper Drone-Embarrassing for British Political Parties

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.

, , , ,

Leave a comment