Boeing, Elbit UAS agreement – more than meets the eye

The press release seemed like the many that are distributed during air shows. But the one released yesterday by Boeing and Elbit Systems is not only different, it is really an earthquake.


A leading manufacturer of unmanned air systems (UAS) teams up with an aerospace superpower. Such an event will have many consequences. The most dramatic one – it changes the situation in the bitter “war” between Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) as far as UAS are concerned.


This “war” has, with the years, fallen into a somewhat known pattern. Yesterday, this pattern was shattered.


The joint press release stated that Boeing and Elbit Systems had signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on the marketing and sale of Elbit’s Hermes 450 and 900 UAS product lines in the USA and “select international countries”.


A multi-role, high-performance tactical UAS and the primary platform of the Israeli Defence Forces in counter-terror operations, the Hermes 450 is a combat-proven UAS with more than 400,000 operational flight hours.


The Hermes 900 features over-the-horizon, persistent multi-mission, multi-payload capabilities and can perform missions for area dominance and for persistent intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR).


What is behind the collaboration? Boeing has been slow in developing UAS. But even if this situation was different, the export of UAS would still be controlled by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), a set of US government regulations that controls the export of defence-related products.


With this collaboration, Boeing will not be bound by the ITAR regulations. Boeing will be able to offer Israeli-made UAS as part of big contracts. This will open many markets, as UAS are in growing demand.


And there is another aspect – the US Army has stated clearly that it needs unmanned platforms for resupply missions in combat zones.


There is no doubt that the vast experience of Elbit Systems in many variations of UAS will serve Boeing’s intention to grasp big chunks of that future market.


IAI was caught unprepared. While trying to keep its cool, citing some cooperation agreements with mostly European companies on UAS, it is clear that the state-owned company will have to reorganise its marketing strategies in which UAS are in focus.


As the international market for UAS develops rapidly, it is only natural that aerospace companies will join forces to be capable of becoming major players. Such a move was made yesterday.

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