First, Europe – and then the world.

Israeli unmanned air systems (UAS) may soon become the backbone of some major European armed forces.

While the UK’s Watchkeeper programme is progressing according to plan – based on the Elbit Systems Hermes-450 – other countries are considering Israeli-made UAS.

The most recent development is Germany’s renewed interest in the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron-TP medium-altitude, long-endurance UAS.

This move was expected, however, after the cancellation of the Talarion programme.

EADS has not officially opened discussions with IAI after the Talarion cancellation, but German sources believe negotiations will result in the Heron-TP being offered to the German armed forces.

The German forces in Afghanistan are using the IAI Heron-1 UAS, and the army has been briefed on the capability of the Heron-TP.

The open architecture of the Heron-TP recently led to an accelerated process that will enable the UAS to fly in French airspace.

IAI and Dassault have formed a joint company in France that will assemble the Heron-TP and fit it with some French payloads.‫ ‬

So, while France has made a decision, the Germans are still evaluating the Predator-B – and sources said that the competition will be “fierce”.

Other European countries have been using Israeli-made UAS. Some were acquired in a speedy process and directly delivered to the units in Afghanistan.

With more than a million flight hours and with many combat-proven systems, the Israeli aerospace industry is still looking at Europe as a potential market – in spite of some programmes that seem to present serious competition.

Observing the Israeli UAS industry very closely,  I can say that it is unique. This uniqueness is exemplified by the fact that an engineer in one of the Israeli companies designing a UAS may be at his desk on Monday – and with his army or air force reserve unit for the rest of the week, operating the same system he helped to design.

This intimate relationship between developers and operators is the secret to success, in my

opinion.

This is, of course, without diminishing the importance of the high level of technology mastered

by companies like IAI and Elbit, that manufacture a wide array of systems – from UAS through to weapon systems, satellites and launchers

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