Posts Tagged Israeli arms companies

Watchkeeper Testing and Training and Deployment

Watchkeeper is an updated Hermes 450, which Israel’s Elbit Systems has sold or leased to many armed forces, and which has been used over the occupied territories of West Bank and Gaza. Elbit will be a key player in the development of Watchkeeper which contains much Elbit technology. It also owns 51% of U-TacS, which builds Watchkeeper, and will have a large part to play in the operation and maintenance of the Watchkeeper fleet. Unsurprisingly, Thales takes the lead in publicising Watchkeeper, no doubt due to the sensitivities about having an Israeli company so integrally involved in UK arms purchases.

The new Watchkeeper was initially tested in Israel at Elbit’s test flying range at Megiddo, Israel.   The purpose of the Israeli tests was to make sure that the Watchkeeper was safe to fly in the UK. (Why Israelis or Palestinians should be sacrificed to keep Britons safe wasn’t discussed. Perhaps they weren’t informed).

In April 2010 it was flown on a twenty minute flight at Parc Aberporth, the Qinetic test range in Wales, which was extended for the purpose.

Later, the flights will take place over Salisbury Plain and will be launched from Qinetic’s Boscombe Field facility at Salisbury. A training facility will be operated by Thales at Salisbury.

Thales claims that the Hermes have flown at +55C in Iraq, and that Watchkeeper will be tested at temperatures ranging from -34C to +49C.

Watchkeeper drones will initially be deployed along with the existing Hermes 450 drones used by the UK in operations in Afghanistan.

The Watchkeeper joint MOD/Thales Service and Training delivery teams will be based at Abbey Wood, Bristol and at Larkhill Salisbury.  They will be assisted by Thales support personnel from Leicester and Crawley. (The ones from Leicester would presumably be U-TacS employees from the Watchkeeper manufacturing facility).

Troops from 32 Regiment Royal Artillery will train at Parc Aberporth and later at Salibury, as they are the ones who will ultimately control the drones in the field. Employees from Thales (actually U-TacS?) will handle launches and landings, and military personnel will handle the remainder of the flight.

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Watchkeeper training facility will be built at Salisbury

Thales UK announced in April, 2010 that a training facility for Watchkeeper drones would be built near Salisbury, in the later part of 2010.

Would this be at  the Thales Training & Simulation, Army Aviation Centre, Middle Wallop, Stockbridge, Hampshire SO20 8DY?

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Israel stops exporting weapons to Turkey.

Israel has implemented a tempory freeze on sales of advanced weapons systems to Turkey, apparently as a result of scathing criticism of Israel by Turkey after the 2008-09 attack by Israel on Gaza. After the attack on Gaza the military cooperation agreement between the two nations was terminated. There has also been problems between Israel and Turkey resulting from the sale of Heron drones to Turkey, which has had many contractual problems.

Here is an excellent UPI article on recent Israel Turkey arms trading issues.

One of the problems outline for Israel is the effects that it has on Israeli air systems testing and training. Turkey had provided airspace for training, and now Israel must find other places, of which Roumania and Hungary have been tried, and India suggested. Turkey’s banning of Israeli training from Turkish air space probably hampered training for a possible air strike on Iran.

This issue provides a window on Israel’s attempts to bully trading partners to get what it wants. It also suggest’s Israel’s vulnerability, since it can obviously be influenced by the actions of its trading partners.

This is one of the few tangible negatives that Israel has sustained as a result of Operation Cast Lead, as Turkey has become more closely aligned with Israel’s most vocal enemies, Syria and Iran.

In terms of drones however Israel gets plenty of training and development opportunities by its drone rentals and sales to many countries in NATO. Israeli arms company personnel are often intimately involved in the deployment of these drones, and thus get valuable experience in operating them in a wide theatre of war.

Turkey has been a valuable ally for Israel, and could be a dangerous enemy. Not because it is likely that Turkey and Israel would ever be in armed conflict, but because Turkey is in NATO, and can veto Israel’s involvement in NATO. Israel values its ties with NATO, and uses its agreements with NATO to integrate its weapons systems with NATO. Without being able to integrate its weapons systems with those of NATO, Israel would be hampered in making weapons sales, especially with NATO countries.

Israel’s military intelligence chief Maj. General Amos Yadlin deflected focus on Israel’s attack on Gaza, and blamed the cooling of relations on Turkey’s drift away from secularism towards ‘radical Islam’.

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Australia Arming Israel, While Israel Arms Australia

15 March, 2010, it was announced that Australia would be purchasing $298USD millions of arms technology from Israeli company Elbit Systems. These purchases were for BMS, or Battle Management Systems, complex electronics that permit integration of modern warfare technology.

Elbit claims that it provides similar technology to 20 countries world wide.

Not only is Elbit arming many countries, profits from these exports provide funds for research and development of new weapons, and grease the wheels under Israel’s military industrial complex.

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Elbit’s ‘Dust-Off’ System

In July 2008 Elbit introduced a system to help avoid brownouts when landing helicopters in dusty or other low visibility situations. It was called ‘Dust Off’.

The Elbit manager who introduced  the system was unidentified because he was a reservist in the Israel Defense Forces, illustrating one more time how closely interrelated Israel’s arms industry is with the government and IDF.

The system provides a helmet mounted display of radar mapping of the ground below the helicopter as it lands in difficult conditions, including snow.

Elbit is working with an ‘unnamed lead country’ developing the product. Why the secrecy? Is it Israel? The UK? Some other country not willing to admit that it works with Elbit?

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Thales Wins Three Year Support Contract for Watchkeeper

Thales (UK) has been awarded a three year support contract for the new UK Watchkeeper drone.

Thales was also the ‘system integrator’ for Watchkeeper,  the company which took technology from the Hermes 450, and added new technology to create a made-in-UK drone system. Hermes 450 is a product of Elbit Systems of Israel, which is one of Israel’s largest drone exporters, and provides surveillance technology for Israel’s ‘apartheid wall’. Thales and Elbit did the project through a joint venture known as UTacS.

It does not appear that the contract was subject to competive bidding, at least none was mentioned.

Composite producer ACG provided the material for the body of the drone. ACG brags that the project has ‘strengthened the ties that exist between ACG and Elbit Systems’.

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Israel Exports the Security State

Jeff Halpern in this excellent YouTube video makes the point that Israel is specialising in exporting the technology of the security state.

Israel has demonstrated the capacity to pacify the Palestinian people, using technology and systematic repression, to the extent that Palestinians are barely able to resist as their land is taken away from them. This is a marketable technology which is being sold around the world.

From surveillance equipment to drones, from security consulting to prison management, Israeli companies are expanding sales widely in this area. Many of the entrepreneurs are former IDF or Mossad managers who have close links with the Israeli government.

Some examples: Elbit Systems is a joint contractor on the wall being built along the US boundary with Mexico. Elbit and other drones companies promote their drones based on their capacity to be used to deal with domestic disturbance.

As soon as Brasil had won the right to hold the 2016 Winter Olympics, the Prime Minister of Israel visited Brasil to promote the sale of Israeli security equipment.

Israel has special exchange programmes with police forces around the world. Not only do the visits to Israel help to sell Israel’s position with respect to the Palestinians, but the visits are marketing opportunities for Israel’s security exports.

Israeli police are also invited to the US and elsewhere to train police in Israeli techniques.

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Simlat Sponsor of UAV Training and Simulation Conference, London

The sponsor of the conference is Simlat, an Israeli simulation company based in Herzliya, Israel, near Tel Aviv. Simlat is also participiating in the 2010 AUVSI Israel First Conference, to be held 6 October in Beer-Sheeva, Israel.

Simlat has produced simulators for Elbit Systems 450, for Aegis (which Aegis?) , for United Dynamics and others.

Presumably the training simulation technology developed for Elbit Systems, also works for the UK Watchkeeper system. Thus Simlat is positioned to provide training for Watchkeeper operators, (including when Watchkeeper becomes an armed system?)

Chairman of the Board at Simlat is Moshe Ortasse, former head of the electronics division at Israel Aircraft Industries. Cofounder Yuval Peshin, President, is an engineer and former intelligence officer for the IDF. Also on the board is Mati Lesham, a former general in the IDF. Yoram Hessel, another board member, is a former high ranking  Mossad official. The final member of the board, Boaz Gruener, was a major of the Israeli intelligence corps.

Hessel has a wide range of other involvements, including the Law Enforcement Exchange Program, which takes US police to Israel to demonstrate Israel law enforcement, (and presumably develop bonds between American police and the Israeli police). Hessel is extremely active in promoting the Israeli perspective among international decision makers.

It is always surprising how companies based in a country conducting an illegal occupation, policies of ethnic cleansing,  and in violation of many UN directives can be so closely ingratiated into the military affairs of the western democracies.

Simlat recently advertised its desire to raise $2 million on the website of canadaisraelchamber.com claiming a large UAV/UAS market in Canada, and therefore presumably a market for simulation training services.

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UAV Training and Simulation Conference

The UAV Training and Simulation Conference brochure starts with the sentence: “This year the US Air Force will train more pilots for UAVs than manned platforms in line with the increased demand for persistent surveillance in Afghanistan.”

Clearly there is a big training requirement for UAVs. Conference presenters, top heavy with US experts, also has presenters from the UK, German, Swiss, Italian, and Canadian Armed Services.

Canadian presenters include Lieut. Colonel Darrell Marleau, head of the drones section of the Canadian armed forces, (see also) and Lieut. Colonel Larry Green, head of marketing for Canadian DND training services. Marleau will presumably speak about Canadian experience in Afghanistan with the Israeli Heron drone.

A featured speaker is Cheryl-lynne Bishop-Wells, UAS Training Systems Manager, Unmanned Air Systems Team, DE&S, UK MoD, who appears to be manager of training for the Watchkeeper System. Curiously, considering the pervasive sales of Israeli drones, there are no Israeli presenters. (One of the sponsors is Israeli simulation company, Simlat, which will presumably be providing simulation exercises at the conference).

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Iron Dome Doesn’t Help Sderot

In Israel, like many countries with very large  arms industries, there is a close relationship between the government, the defense department and the industry, with the former often acting to promote the interests of the private arms industry.

Politically it was very important in the last few years for the Israeli government to ‘protect’ the residents of Sderot, in Israeli territory near the Gaza strip, who were being attacked by Qassam rockets fired from Gaza.

Residents of Sderot were promised a ‘missile defense shield’ that would protect them from Qassam rockets and money was awarded to Rafael Advanced Defence Systems to build one. Indeed a working system was completed in just two and a half years. However the IDF purchased only one system, at a cost of $50 million, then promptly put it into storage in the north of the country saying that it would be used to protect the frontier with Lebanon. It did not announce plans to purchase additional batteries.

Two theories have been advanced for this abrupt change of policy.

First, it has been pointed out that the Iron Dome system supplied by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems could not possibly defend Sderot from Qassam rockets fired from Gaza because the time it takes for a rocket to arrive in Sderot is far to short to allow the Iron Dome system to be activated. Iron Dome would only work where the lead times are greater, perhaps on the front with Lebanon.(It has also been pointed out that Israel could have purchased ‘off the shelf’ defence systems from the US, which used lasers and therefore had much shorter activation times, and were cheaper.

Second, it has been suggested that the plan to provide a ‘shield’ for Sderot was simply an excuse to commence a weapons development programme, with the real goal to sell the system to an offshore client, specifically Singapore. It was recently announced that Singapore would buy xx units of the system.

(Additional information from article by Lars Olberg, in Missile Monitor).

So were the citizens of Sderot betrayed by their government, who used their situation to justify a weapons development system that could not possibly benefit them?

Did Singapore believe that Israel was building a workable system for itself, when in reality the system is of little use for Israel and is more expensive than better alternatives?

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