US/Israel unmanned air systems “dogfight” over Europe

‏The Israeli unmanned air system (UAS) industry has come to understand that the European market has limited potential.

Until last year France and Germany were considered good potential customers for Israeli systems – namely the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron-TP.‬

The Heron-TP is a MALE+ UAS powered by a PWC PT-6 turboprop. It has a maximum take-off weight of 4t. The fuselage is 13m long, with a wingspan of 26m.

Until recently the two countries showed great interest in the system, but for a variety of reasons this interest has decreased to almost zero.‬

This reason is not operational, but rather political: the European countries have decided to make a renewed effort to develop their own UAS . These efforts failed in past years, mainly because of technical difficulties and a lack of experience.

There are still some optimistic people in the Israeli industry that think that the situation may improve, but most industry officials agree that the European market is closed for Israeli UAS.

I think that the problem is somewhere else – the problem is in Washington, which suddenly realised the UAS market in Europe was looking at Israeli-made systems. This insight was also based on the British Watchkeeper programme – a UAS based on the Elbit Systems Hermes-450.

Washington reacted fast. The General Atomics Predator is now a very viable option for some European countries.‬

This change in US policy is a factor in what is already referred to as the Heron-TP and Predator “dogfight”.

The Israeli UAS industry as a whole has to reconsider its potential markets and make changes accordingly.

One Israeli source told me the “big industry players” have finally come to understand that unmanned systems are in growing demand, and will attract big budgets.

“In this situation every new competition will turn into a war – exactly like what happened with manned aircraft until some years ago,” the source says.‬

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