Sophisticated, fast, and lethal: Israel’s military drones

kamikaze UAV Harop Attack Drone (4)

Israel Aerspace Industries’ kamikaze UAV Harop Attack Drone

By Gideon  

April 28, 2016

The vast majority of Israelis view the development of new weapons as a simple necessity in order to ensure their safety and their country’s very existence. Israel has topped the list of the world’s most innovative countries in the World Competitiveness Yearbook produced by Swiss business school International Institute for Management Development (IMD) for years now. [Spiegel Online]

In many ways Israel has led the way in the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in conflict, with its development and use of military UAVs going back at least four decades. Many countries are attempting to manufacture drones, but most of them are either technologically unsophisticated or are being used strictly for civilian purposes. The United States and Israel are the two most important manufacturers of military drones. While its drone use is shrouded in secrecy – Israel has never publicly admitted to the use of armed drones.

Israel was the first country which developed military drone technology after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, during which its air force sustained large losses. It manufactures a wide array of drones, including one of the largest and most advanced models in the world — the Heron TP Eitan, which costs an estimated $35 million. With a wingspan of 26 meters it is the size of a Boeing 737 passenger jet and can reach an altitude of 12,000 meters. It can also stay in the air for more than 20 consecutive hours — making it possible for Israel to fly surveillance missions above Iran. Israel is also a top drone exporter. Despite a recent deterioration in diplomatic relations with Israel, Turkey is reported to use Israeli-made drones in surveillance operations in northern Iraq. Israel has reportedly sold components and technology for as many as 60 of its Orbiter 2M and Aerostar drones to Azerbaijan, one of Israel’s closest Muslim allies. – Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty

Israel pioneered the modern use of UAVs, which are popularly known as drones, for intelligence gathering and target identification starting in the mid-1970s. The country remains one of the world’s leading exporters of UAV systems. Drone technology and manufacturing is the fastest growing sector of the global aerospace industry — Israeli companies producing UAVs made over $4.5 billion dollars from foreign sales from 2005 to 2012. Israeli drones are advertised as having been “battle tested” and “combat proven,” but many who oppose UAV technology on the battlefield have singled out Israel’s drone use, criticizing the country for testing military equipment in real-world missions, notably in Gaza, despite their proliferation by not just Israel but also its opponents. – Vice

Israel has been in a perpetual state of conflict with its neighbors since the country’s founding. It feels threatened from all sides; it is small and doesn’t possess a massive army. “Innovative military technologies, rather than a massive army, have been viewed as strategically crucial for Israel given its relatively small size,” says Dan Peled, a business professor at the University of Haifa. Over the decades, this has led to a close interlinking of the army with the civilian science, industrial and political sectors. And to a lucrative business with war. British military trade publication Jane’s ranks Israel as the world’s sixth largest exporter of weapons. But with a per capita value of around $300 in exports for each resident, Israel is at the top of the list. Even the United States, by far the world’s largest arms exporter, only has per capita weapons sales of $90. Israel’s exports are growing rapidly, too. Data from the Stockholm peace research institute SIPRI shows that Israeli weapons exports more than doubled between 2001 and 2012. Proven combat performance’ is one of Israel’s strongest military technology sales promotions.” – Spiegel Online

The remote controlled Harop drone can carry 23 kilograms (50 pounds) of explosives in its tip. Once the pilot has identified a target, the drone dives toward it at a speed of up to 400 kilometers per hour. The Israeli army has deployed the Harop for years now, India is considering buying some and Germany’s military also expressed temporary interest. 

The Hero-30 drone made by uVision, is a new Israeli weapon, which may prove to be a disruptive force in military technology, heralding a new type of warfare in which shooting at a target you can see is as rare as using a bayonet. It’s the killer UAV you’ll never see coming. It’s been clear for years that the next phase in military drone technology would be to go small, because the game-changing potential of these tiny drones is clear: In the past, soldiers have been able to take cover behind a wall or a ridge, or by digging a foxhole. Loitering munitions like Hero, which can attack from any direction, strip away this cover.  The only place to hide would be inside a bunker. With other weapons you know when someone is firing at you, and where they are. With Hero there is no muzzle flash or report and it can be launched from miles away.  Enemy snipers and mortar teams can be engaged from a safe distance and behind cover. The Hero-30 has sophisticated terminal guidance software. It can lock on to evading targets and pursue them automatically, targets which might be prove difficult to hit with manual control. The Hero-30 is particularly suitable for urban anti-insurgent operations. – Popular Mechanics

When it comes to military drones, Israel is by far the largest exporter in the world,shipping over 61% of worldwide volumes, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri). [Business Insider] Thanks to massive budget cuts and tanking economies, many Western governments, especially in Europe and the United States, are slashing defense spending and eliminating big-ticket weapons systems. Dozens of other countries, throughout Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, are spending more and more these days on their burgeoning militaries. But no matter their economic situation, the one thing they’re all clamoring for is drones. Especially those made in a certain tiny Middle East country surrounded by lots of enemies. Israel was recently anointed as the world’s largest exporter of the small surveillance planes, according to a major study by the Frost & Sullivan international business consulting firm. The handful of Israeli companies that manufacture the drones earned at least $4.6 billion in sales during the last eight years, Frost & Sullivan said in its report. That tally includes exports of the planes themselves and operating and communications systems and payloads. American defense companies probably manufacture more drones, but they send much of them to the US military and its close allies, Frost & Sullivan’s Eran Flumin told Quartz. Also, US restrictions limit the number of drones that American firms can export. The majority of Israeli drone exports go to Asia, with India viewed as the largest growth market for Israel’s defense goods. The Israeli defense sector would also like to increase sales to China, but the US government has often stood in the way of deals that include technologies that could potentially be used for military purposes. Sweden’s SIPRI says that Israeli defense firms are active in the African market.

Israel doesn’t have as strict export curbs. Drone manufacturers like state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries as well as Elbit Systems and Aeronautics Defense Systems have been busy in recent years, expanding their geographic footprint and locking up lucrative new deals. – QUARTZ

The Russian air force acquired a number of 20-foot-long Searcher drones from Israel Aerospace Industries, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of unmanned aerial vehicles, starting in 2010. Russia also acquired from IAI, which is wholly owned by the Israeli government, a license to make its own copies of the propeller-driven Searcher, a rough equivalent of the U.S. military’s own Predator drone. Russia needed Israel to provide the unmanned aerial vehicles because its rusting weapons industry struggles to design and produce high-end robotic aircraft all on its own.  Getting its hands on Israeli Searchers helped the Russian military to catch up to the world’s leading drone powers. – The Daily Beast

The Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth said that the National Security Agency in the United States and its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, which monitor electronic and other communications, had decrypted Israeli communications on air force missions over Gaza, Iran and Syria. The United States and Britain have monitored secret drone flights and communications by the Israeli Air Force in a hacking operation dating to 1998, according to documents attributed to leaks by the former American intelligence contractor Edward J. Snowden. Israel voiced disappointment but no great surprise at the disclosures, published by The Intercept, an online publication associated with Glenn Greenwald, who has collaborated with Mr. Snowden, and by the German news magazine Der Spiegel. The disclosures raised the possibility of further strained ties between Israel and the United States. – New York Times

According to the Diplomat (the premier international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region), Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and South Korean composite manufacturer, Hankuk Carbon (HC), have signed a memorandum of understanding to establish a joint venture to develop and produce new Vertical Take-Off and Landing Unnamed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) at the beginning of February, according to Israeli media reports. Israel and South Korea have first partnered up in the development of UAVs in 2014. Seoul has the ambitious plan of becoming the third technologically most advanced leader in drone technology by 2023.

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