This has become a war of the mind.
A threat is exposed and someone wants to counter it - this principle is not new. What is new is the pace. This war has become a rollercoaster - and this speed results in very advanced defence systems.
Israel has succeeded in persuading Moscow not to sell the S-300 ground-air system to Iran, but this is not enough. Other suppliers will help Iran and other countries to deploy defence systems that threaten to severely affect the capabilities of any air force - even an advanced one.
So the challenge now is to be one step ahead. While most of the advancements developed in Israel are classified, from time to time there is a rare opportunity to learn about the direction they are taking.
With lethal air defences there is only one goal - deceive the sensors by creating false targets on the radar screens that form part of the defensive system.
In spite of the fact that very little has been revealed, it is clear that this is a game-changer - a system that will take electronic countermeasures (ECM) to a higher level.
First, some technological facts: traditional coherent ECM systems are based on digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) - consisting of analog to digital conversion and digital processing, followed with reversed digital to analog conversion.
The inherited drawbacks of this method originate from the sampling process, which causes limited immediate bandwidth (BW) quantization noise, limited dynamic range and large minimum delay.
However, Israel-based company MORE claims that these drawbacks have been made irrelevant by new technology.
The company has developed a customised ECM application based on a completely analog RF-photonic design, which renders the sampling unnecessary.
The main advantages of such technology include almost unlimited immediate BW, more natural (physical) radar echo and negligible minimum delay.
In addition, MORE developed the ability to optically manipulate the RF signal - including range, amplitude and phase data - and thus achieve the ability to convolute the RF signal in a significantly more efficient way than the traditional digital fast convolution process.
These abilities, according to the Israeli company, enable the creation of a complex scenario with a large number of targets. The system is small in volume and weight, and therefore can be used on many types of aerial platforms
However, this one system is only an example of the effort - of the war between minds - that on one hand tries to find ways to detect stealthy platforms, and on the other to allow any attacking platform, stealthy or not, to get to the target and destroy it.
Like in chess, the player with a small advantage can achieve a checkmate. This is duplicated now in ECM. Unlike in chess, however, in combat this makes the difference between life and death.
Automatic take-off and landing (ATOL) will be standard on any future unmanned aerial system (UAS), but currently manufacturers are struggling to adapt it to all the types they are developing.
It's a tricky feature, and it must work accurately in most conditions - but this is not so simple.
Israeli UAS manufacturers have installed ATOL on some of their products. However, some manufacturers are still working on finalising the feature and making it reliable under most conditions.
In some contracts ATOL is the most attractive selling point, and this is why the sellers are working hard to stand behind their promises.
When Aeronautics - the Israeli UAS company - signed a contract to supply its Aerostar UAS to Poland, that feature was part of the performance package.
The Aerostars were supplied without ATOL, but the client needed it. As a result, the effort to complete the system is in its peak.
Daily test flights with ATOL systems on-board are aimed to complete the process before the end of the year.
The Polish army purchased two Aerostar systems that were needed for operation by Polish units in Afghanistan.
Prior to the Aerostar contract, the Polish defence forces deployed the Aeronautics Orbiter UAS system.
The Aerostar is operated in Afghanistan as part of the Polish commitment to the international force.
ATOL capability is very important in Afghanistan, and the Israeli company is making an accelerated effort to complete its development so that it can perform a final approach and land safely in windy conditions, and with ground effects in the operational area.
Avi Leumi, president of Aeronautics, said that ATOL will enable the UAS to take off and land with a pre-deployed infrastructure, like a beacon. It will use a differential global positioning system unit.
"The ATOL system also required changes in the airframe itself, as it will be exposed to more heavy landings," he said.
The president revealed that the company is evaluating the development of an ATOL simulator that will decrease the number of actual flights needed to train crews in the operation of the new ATOL system.
This would be used especially in the transition phase between manual take-off and landing and the automated process.
The huge market potential for unmanned air systems (UASs) in India is changing the landscape. Indian companies - not just in the aerospace and defence business - are seeking to invest in the sector in an attempt to win a chunk of the Indian defence modernisation budget, which is already big and will only get bigger.
With an expected tender for at least 500 mini UASs, financial investors in India are running at full blast in their hunt for business opportunities.
In recent weeks, Indian pharmaceutical giant Piramal Healthcare held a round of secret talks with some of the Israeli manufacturers planning to bid for the contract.
Sources in Israel said that, through its US subsidiary, Piramal discussed a possible investment in one of the Israeli companies. The sources said nothing has been concluded.
Israeli sources said Piramal plans to establish a defence subsidiary and this may lead to more potential investments in Israeli companies.
The planned Indian tender will include 500 mini and micro UASs with an endurance of at least 30 minutes and operation by one or two soldiers.
The major Israeli unmanned air vehicle (UAV) manufacturers are making preparations to team up with local Indian companies as the release of the request for quotations for mini and micro UASs for the Indian army approaches.
Isarel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has a very strong foothold in the Indian defence establishment and will probably offer one or more of its small UAVs directly. Elbit Systems is looking for a local partner, as is Aeronautics.
These companies did not disclose their efforts, but BlueBird - one of the smaller UAV manufacturers - has already finalised an agreement to team up with India's Dynamatic Technologies.
Indian companies in different sectors have identified the market's potential and are trying to make sure they get on the train that could carry them to the huge budgets.
Since I wrote about this debate some time ago, something has changed. It's not the end of the debate, but at last things are finally happening.
Brig Gen Sami Turjeman , commander of the Israeli Defence Forces' (IDF) ground forces said on 23 May that his units will soon be equipped with long-range accurate rockets.
This announcement brought a flood of criticism from the Israeli air force (IAF). The equation is simple - if ground forces get the tools for close ground support fire, the air force will not get it.
The role of the IAF in suppressing rocket and shell fire into Israel has been evaluated extensively in recent years.
Traditionally, the IAF is in charge of suppressing any fire aimed from neighboring countries against civilian and military targets inside Israel.
The development of precise, low-cost rockets by Israeli companies put the issue on the table some years ago, but opposition from the IAF resulted in the current situation. The opposition was based on the concern that a change will decrease the IAF's procurement budgets.
Until a few years ago the only precise rocket available to the IDF was the upgraded, trajectory-corrected multi launch rocket system, with a range of 24nm (45km).
Israel Military Industries (IMI) decided to change this situation and offer very accurate, low-cost solutions.
The IMI concept is based on the company's extended-range artillery rockets like the Extra, which was jointly developed with Israel Aerospace Industries.
The trajectory-corrected long-range rocket is aimed at replacing aircraft missions at a range of up to 81nm.
The Extra - which is actually a guided missile - has a range of over 81nm. It will replace air-ground weapons in medium- and long-range strikes.
The Extra is 3.9m (12.8ft) long and a diameter of 30cm. The total weight of the rocket is 430kg - including a 120kg warhead.
As part of the new concept, IMI has developed a launcher that can be used to launch different types of precise rockets.
And there are other tools for the proposed close support. One is the Rafael Spike-NLOS, with a range of 13nm.
There are further signs of change - the IDF's artillery corps are operating two types of unmanned air systems (UAS) that are dedicated to their missions. The fact that the IAF lost its total exclusivity in operating UAS is without doubt a sign of change.
So, the tools are handy and proven and all the signs point to procurement by the IDF's ground forces. Will the IAF sit tight? I doubt it.
The revolution that unmanned air systems (UAS) have brought to the modern combat arena is accompanied by a parallel evolution in the operation of these weapons. However, this process is multi-layered and requires many changes.
The Israeli aerospace and defence industries are a main source of all types of UAS, and as such also develop the tools required as a result of the evolution.
Firstly, the external pilot was made redundant and take-off and landing became automatic, but the ground station crew who receive signals from the array of sensors attached to UAS are still very much required and have to be experts to digest the flood of data, not all of it relevant.
This naturally requires training and a sophisticated selection of candidates to become UAS systems operators. One of the first tools developed to match the need for these candidates is a simulation system that will help air forces select the best candidates for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) payload operators.
Simlat, the Israeli company which has developed a line of advanced simulators for UAS, recently signed a contract to supply 15 of its Selection by Performance-Oriented Testing (SPOT) systems to a military customer for an extensive process of manning ISR payload operator positions.
More than 100 candidates are expected to undergo the SPOT evaluation as part of the selection process. The procedure includes inspecting SPOT performance grades on various ISR tasks to determine compatibility to this demanding position.
"Incorporating SPOT in the selection process allows customers to explore candidates' performance and cognitive skills through tasks that are highly relevant to the position in question, with no need for prior knowledge or training," says Nira Streifler, product manager at Simlat. "It's a cost-effective solution both in terms of the selection process itself and when taking into consideration the costs of incompatible manning or dropout."
The transfer of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) technology from Israel to Russia is controlled - but there is no doubt it helped the Russians move forward after years of stagnation in the development of unmanned platforms.
The result is logical, as even basic Israeli-made UAS include features that have been developed through 40 years of operational use.
The shape of the fuselage, the location of the payload, the wings - all these seem to an unprofessional eye as negligible things, but they actually make the difference between a radio-controlled model aircraft and an operational UAS with advanced capabilities based on the airframe and payload design.
The hot topic now is whether technology transfer from Israel helps Russia to design its first "strike" UAS.
According to official Russian sources, the UAS it is expected to fly in 2014 will be equipped with sensors and "armament".
Russia came to Israel for UAS after Russian MIG-29 fighters shot down an Israeli-made Hermes-450 UAS operated by the Georgian air force during the war between those two countries.
The Russians first purchased two types of UAS made by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) - the BirdEye-400 and the improved Searcher-2. This initial deal was valued at $50 million.
Following this deal, the Russian press reported that Moscow has finalised a new deal - this time, according to some sources, for more advanced UAS. Unlike the first deal, the follow-on deal included technology transfer.
Official Israeli sources have claimed that all the deals included only "basic technology used in small systems".
Russian officials did not refer to any technology transfer that is involved in the development of the new "strike" UAS, but sources said the purchase of UAS developed in Israel helped Russia to make a "big leap" in the relevant technology.
In Israel there are split opinions over the deals. Some have opposed the sales, claiming that it may lead to "leaks" of technology to hostile countries like Iran and Syria. Others have claimed the benefits of the UAS deals with Russia have been greater than any possible damage.
According to some foreign sources the deal helped to convince Moscow not to sell advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.
It was obvious that Russia needed the Israeli technology for an interim period until its industry closes the gap in UAS design and production.
I have a feeling that we will hear about this issue again as Russia advances in UAS production.
The threat of terror is putting the airline industry under pressure without even performing a hostile act.
The security apparatus that surrounds the industry worldwide has an enormous price tag.
Now, the potential threat may force two Israeli airlines to phase out a certain type of aircraft used on domestic flights.
This is the situation - the continued operation of the ATR-72-500 by two Israeli airlines on flights to Eilat may be in doubt, as the threat from shoulder-launched missiles along the Egyptian border has reached an all time peak.
The situation in Egypt turned the Sinai desert into a haven for terrorists, equipped with thousands of shoulder-launched missiles. The latest models arrived in the desert after the revolution in Libya.
While the medium- and large-sized aircraft of EL AL, Arkia and Israir will soon be equipped with Elbit Systems' C-Music countermeasures, the 7 ATR-72-500s operated by Arkia and Israir pose a problem.
The system is too heavy for the aircraft that operate most of the flights from central Israel to Eilat, the Red Sea resort. These flights have to fly very near to the border - an area that has seen terror attacks on the ground.
Since an attempt to shoot down an Israeli passenger airline in Kenya in 2002, there has been a slow process to equip Israeli passenger aircraft with countermeasures.
The immediate decision was to use "Flight Guard" - a flare-based system which is an adaptation of a system used by Israeli air force. This system - developed by Israel Aerospace Industries - has not largely been installed, however. The reasoning behind this is the opposition from foreign airports to allowing aircraft carrying flares to land on their runways.
"Flight Guard" was designed as an interim solution. The permanent one is C-Music, developed by the ELOP division of Elbit Systems.
C-Music is based on the MUSIC system - a direct infrared countermeasure technology for military aircraft and helicopters that disrupts missiles fired at aircraft and causes them to veer off course by transmitting a laser beam.
In recent weeks, Arkia and Israir have revealed they are in negotiations with the Israeli transport ministry, trying to avoid a decision that will force them to phase out their ATR's.
A source close to the issue said that there are a number of possibilities and that "none of them gives a full answer".
The "side effects" of terror are taking a toll - and will continue to do so, as the means available to the terrorists becomes more lethal.
Until recently military technology was often adapted for civil uses - enabling Israeli defence companies like Rafael to establish subsidiary companies that take the technology developed for missiles, for example, and adapt it for medical purposes.
This direction has changed. Now we see more civil technologies being adapted for military uses.
The reason behind this is simple - the research and development budgets at civil companies that develop systems which are later mass-produced are much bigger than those available to the defence industry.
In many Israeli defence companies the trend is to use such off-the-shelf technologies for systems that are aimed to win a war. Sensors, electro-optics and robotics are just a few examples in which the defence industry enjoys the fruit of massive investments in the high end of what we sometimes refer to as "gadgets".
Experts are often taken by surprise at the quality of many off-the-shelf products that with small adaptations are used in their systems.
My guess is this trend will continue, as the demand from the civil market for new technology continues to grow.
Efficient energy sources that can power unmanned air systems and hand-held communications are just two recent examples of technologies that are moving from civil to military.
The list grows longer every month - and in some cases it's hard to believe the origin of some exotic technology found in the most advanced military systems.
Sensors, especially very advanced ones, have a unique way of self development. Or, to be more precise, the sensors are becoming diversified as they are being used for purposes other than the original aim.
Foreign object detection (FOD) on runways is an international problem. Special teams at civil airports and air bases have one job - to detect objects that can endanger an aircraft taking off.
The Concorde supersonic airliner crash in France in 2000 was a wake-up call for those that have underestimated the problem. The sequence that caused the aircraft to crash soon after take-off was started by a metal object on the runway.
Israeli company X-Sight is the manufacturer of one of the most advanced FOD detection systems available today. The company's FODetect system is already installed at airports in the US, Europe, Southeast Asia and Israel.
FODetect features surface detection units (SDU) located on the edge-light bases along the runway travel surfaces. Each SDU consists of a small 77GHz millimeter wave radar system, combined with a charge-coupled device (CCD) camera with zoom.
Each SDU scans a runway section in less than 30s, with detection resolution down to the size of an aircraft nut or rivet.
Each SDU is also equipped with near-infrared illumination unit, to enable the use of the CCD camera at night.
The large number of sensors located along the runway allows for necessary redundancy, so each SDU can cover adjacent zones and give a different viewing angle for better identification.
All the SDUs are connected to the main control Centre using the existing power line communications system at the airport.
However, as I mentioned, users quickly discovered that such a great number of dual sensors along runways offers something that may seem a byproduct - but may also be a very important one.
The many sensors can also be used to monitor the contact of the aircraft with the tarmac - heavy landing, off-centre line landing and landing gear problems are just a few of the events which can be monitored live, enabling staff to call an emergency and later an efficient debriefing process.
The complexity of the solutions is growing at a much faster pace than the threats themselves.
When a country is threatened by a multitude of rockets, missiles and air-ground weapons systems, many of them of the smart type, someone has to take charge of coordinating all the defensive means the country has, which is a very difficult task.
You only have to sit with the intelligence people who show you what they know about the threats - the anticipated trajectories and warhead power - and you become nervous, in spite of the fact that you sit in an air-conditioned room drinking coffee that was just served by a beautiful female officer.
Rafael has recently released more details about its integrated command and control system aimed at coordinating multi-layer or multi-participants' air defence systems.
The need for such a system is a result of the growing threats to countries such as Israel from hostile aircraft, missiles and armed unmanned air systems.
The Israeli company's Modular Integrated C4I (MIC 4 AD) is an advanced unified integrated C4I system that commands and controls the operation of air and missile defence missions.
According to Rafael, MIC 4 AD provides a total solution for multi-systems, multi-layer and multi-range air and missile defence threats.
MIC 4 AD provides effective fire control. Its flexible resource management engine creates an optimised solution to all threats at any level of command (national, regional or tactical). The system is user-friendly and easily operated. It combines automated capabilities and advanced interactive displays.
One very good example is the Israeli multi-layer defence system. This already includes the Iron Dome system, against short-range rockets, and the Arrow-2 interceptor, against ballistic missiles. Two additional layers are under development - the "David Sling", against longer-range rockets and the Arrow-3, against longer-range ballistic missiles with unconventional warheads.
The MIC 4 AD operational concept exploits offline resources (databases, digital terrain models, and intelligence) and real-time data (radar and the identification friend or foe system), all connected to the air traffic control picture and to the mission planning system. Together, they build the National Air Situation Picture.
Rafael says that the MIC 4 AD correlates data from multiple sensors and platforms (such as radar and electro-optics) and delivers a real-time, unified, coherent tactical picture. MIC 4 AD also performs threat assessment and provides hostile target classification, interception planning and effective command of the weapon system launching process.
A variety of threats, limited defensive resources.... This system may solve the problem, which is becoming more and more relevant for many countries. You only have to listen to the reports of leaking arsenals in certain countries to grasp the size of this problem.
Mission aircraft are becoming a key tool for enforcing a country's sovereignty in the defined space inside its borders. As a result, this releases budgets that in the past would not have been available.
Countries want to monitor their borders efficiently, not only to detect intrusions but also to detect more sophisticated threats.
Latin America has emerged as a region with a big demand for such tools - namely mission aircraft.
Brazil and Chile are two of the most promising markets for Israel Aerospace Industries' (IAI) mission aircraft.
The company is negotiating with a number of other countries in the region. A company source said potential clients understand that compact platforms like the Gulfstream G-550 - packed with AEW Elint and Comint sensors - are the right solution.
The mission platforms, the source said, will be mostly unmanned in the future, but in the meantime business aircraft-sized platforms are on the top demand list.
Last year, IAI subsidiary Elta - which is converting such platforms to mission aircraft - delivered an additional compact intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft to a Latin American customer. Several such ISR aircraft, designated ELI-3120, are in service with customers worldwide. Those contracts amount to approximately $100 million.
This ISR aircraft is equipped with systems that support law enforcement's mission to prevent drug production and smuggling as well as tackling contraband weapons, illegal logging, deforestation, illegal mining, border crossing, river contamination and more. This is of course a partial list - but a very "politically correct" one.
According to Elta, a manned ISR aircraft is a preferred solution in areas with air traffic control limitations that may affect unmanned aerial systems' operations.
The delivered compact ISR aircraft is based on a Beechcraft B-350 platform equipped with IAI-ELTA's Communication Intelligence (COMINT) system, a microwave data-link for real-time communication with a command and control center and IAI/Tamam Division's MOSP stabilised day/night electro-optic sensors.
The ELI-3120 is modular and allows the addition of systems such as airborne maritime surveillance radar, an SAR system for imagery intelligence missions, satellite communications for long-range missions and more.
Brazil and Chile seem to be interested in larger platforms, but other countries in the region may go for the smaller ones. Anyhow, the potential seems to be very big.
The Israeli navy is yet to decide what its future vessels will be. Even after that decision is made, budget allocation will be slow. For some reason that remains unclear, the navy is a long way down the queue for budgets.
But one thing that is moving ahead is a plan to equip the current Super Dvora patrol boats with small unmanned air systems (UASs).
The plan - still in its infant stages - may be accelerated because of looming threats in the offshore waters of the Mediterranean.
The mission to protect the offshore gas reservoirs that have been discovered in recent years is performed by the navy. Even after pumping begins next year, and the companies deploy some security systems at their own cost, the core mission will be the navy's responsibility.
The work is being undertaken to develop small vertical take-off and landing unmanned systems that will give the Super Dvoras a capability to look a long way "over the horizon".
Work is under way, but there are no specific details. Judging from the past performance of Israeli UAS manufacturers such as Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit Systems, we can expect some very special systems.
A country that develops some of the most advanced weapon systems in the world. A country with aerospace and defence industries that have not even begun consolidation. Add to this the different interests of the ministry of defence and ministry of foreign affairs and you have a mix that leads to a severe report by Israel's state comptroller.
This is exactly what happened last week. State comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, a former judge, accused Udi Shani, director general of the defence ministry, of violating defence export laws and regulations when approving a number of defence deals in recent years.
In three cases, the comptroller found Shani ignored export procedures and decided to grant export licences to companies to sell military platforms overseas despite opposition from the foreign ministry.
In his defence, Shani argued that the cases probed by the state comptroller's office were not significant and therefore he decided to rule on them independently and without following the regulations.
According to export regulations, if there is a disagreement between the foreign and defence ministries regarding an export licence, the issue first goes to a meeting between two department heads from the ministries. If they fail to agree, it is then brought before the directors-general of both offices. If they fail to agree, it is decided by a ministerial committee led by the prime minister.
"The director-general and head of the defence export agency, which operates within the ministry, overstepped their authority and acted against the law," Lindenstrauss wrote.
I have written in this blog more than once about the dilemmas Israel faces when it comes to defence exports. The interests of the defence and foreign ministries are totally different in most cases.
Will the report change things? I doubt it. The fact that Israeli manufacturers of defence systems, such as unmanned air systems (UAS), compete with each other for foreign clients, instead of joining forces against overseas companies, creates an atmosphere in which the regulations are not always followed.
As always in Israel, the state comptroller's report feeds media headlines for a few days, and it will then join a stack of older reports on dusty shelves in the archives of the relevant ministries.
Take an airline that, in spite of being privatised, is still considered the national airline and, on the other hand, a strange approach towards a national symbol such as the state president and you get an embarrassing incident. This leads to asking, "How did this incident happen?".
Any business should be based on commercial rules, but also on what is referred to as "sensitivity to the environment", and this time not in the context of pollution. Last week Israeli airline EL AL lacked that sensitivity, which caused the the national airline huge embarrassment and even commercial damage.
Israeli president Shimon Peres flew on Sunday to Canada for an official visit on an Air Canada flight that took off from Ben Gurion international airport.
With no Israeli equivalent of Air Force One for leaders, before every official visit abroad, the prime minister's or the president's office issues a tender to one of the airlines. The preference, of course, is an Israeli airline. This time EL AL submitted an offer.
One of the demands for air travel for 88-year-old Peres is that his personal paramedic will have an oxygen tank on board. When EL AL got that demand, it asked for an extra $4,700.
The president's office thanked EL AL and within hours obtained an offer from the Israeli office of Air Canada.
Air Canada offered a significantly lower price for the president's travel, and did not ask for an extra charge for in-cabin storage for the oxygen tank.
After the tickets were issued, EL AL finally understood that a big mistake had been made - but that was too late.
The EL AL official comment was strange, like the decision itself. A spokesman for the airline said: "We salute the president."
The pilots of EL AL were furious and their association chairman, Captain Nir Zook, sent a letter of apology to the president.
So instead of EL AL appearing on almost every TV screen in the world this week, Air Canada will be there, benefiting from EL AL's lack of sensitivity.
In my opinion, EL AL's recent financial loss, even before the open skies agreement with the EU has been signed, caused its management to lose its cool. In the aviation business, this is a bad thing.
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) expects a surge in demand for upgrades of old fighter aircraft and helicopters in coming years.
The company believes that after a relatively slow period in the upgrade business, the market is going to become a "meaningful" part of its international portfolio.
Industry experts said the assessment is that demand will largely come from operators of older versions of the F-16, and Russian-made fighter aircraft and helicopters.
"Air forces understand that a relatively old platform equipped with [an] advanced system can achieve a lot of performance," one expert said.
Since the last "wave" of upgrades in the 90's, IAI and other Israeli companies have managed to develop systems to answer a lot of mission requirements with less volume and weight.
These are now being offered to some potential customers that want to prolong the service life of their fighter aircraft and helicopter fleets for at least 20 more years.
The list of downsized systems is long. Some of the systems that will now be offered for upgrades are the result of an effort made in recent years to tailor many such systems for use on unmanned air systems (UAS).
The fact that IAI is a major UAS manufacturer - and also in the fighter aircraft upgrade business - will result in some interesting upgrades.
There is one problem with the expected surge of fighter upgrades, however - Russian manufacturers of fighter aircraft that in the past left the upgrade market to Western companies have changed their policies, and may now try to upgrade the platforms they manufactured many years ago.
The indications have been there for at least a year - but they were not enough. Now, however - and with great caution - Israeli sources say that the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron-TP unmanned air system (UAS) may become the medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) choice of many European countries, as part of their common NATO equipment.
NATO plans to acquire an Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system that will give commanders a comprehensive picture of the situation on the ground - NATO claims that the operation to protect civilians in Libya showed how important such a capability is.
And so, a group of allies intends to acquire five UASs and the associated command and control base station, and then operate and maintain them on behalf of all 28 allied nations.
The AGS system is expected to be acquired by 13 allies - Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States - and will then be made available to the Alliance in 2015-2017.
This key procurement programme is in its final approval phase, before the 13 nations authorise a signature on the contract.
France has already selected the Heron-TP, and it is expected that Germany will re-evaluate it after the cancellation of the Talarion programme.
EADS has not officially opened talks with IAI after the Talarion cancellation, but German sources believe any such talks will result in the Heron TP being offered to the German armed forces.
German forces in Afghanistan are already 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 resulted recently in an accelerated process that will enable the UAS to fly in French airspace.
IAI and France's Dassault aviation have formed a joint company in France that will assemble the Heron-TP and fit it with some French payloads.
The Germans are still evaluating the Predator-B, and sources said that the competition will be "fierce".
Sources in Israel also said the Heron-TP is being evaluated by Spain and "may soon be evaluated" by the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Some developments point to a possible UK interest in the Heron-TP. The UK and France last year decided to fund a study of the potential development of a joint MALE UAS.
This common interest has not yet resulted in a new design, however, and France - as I mentioned above - has already selected the Heron-TP.
Plans to establish a Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (CJEF), related to NATO, have been expanded, and discuss an operating capability in 2016.
Knowing all these facts, I think the Heron-TP in different versions is can become NATO's MALE UAS .
What until some months ago were only whispers, have become loud words of scepticism.
Reports about more delays in the F-35 programme and about the growing costs have brought about the change and key people in the Israeli defence establishment are expressing their thoughts openly.
With delivery dates pushed to 2018, growing costs and reports about limited capabilities, the question marks have become bigger.
The delays in the F-35 programme were not fully taken into account when the Israeli government approved $2.75 billion for 20 of the fighter.
Some of those talking about a "big problem" are asking the very simple question, "Does Israel need a stealth fighter with a $137 million price tag attached to its wings?". Many experts say "no'.
They say the current fleet of fighters and unmanned aerial systems (UAS) operated by the Israeli air force (IAF) can, with the right electronic warfare systems, achieve the same element of surprise.
"To blind the enemy sensors is a mission that can be performed with a less expensive and complicated platform," one of them told me. Hearing that from a man who "breathes" sensors 24 hours a day, you are left with a big, annoying question mark.
The opposition gets some tail wind from experts in the US and other places who claim the stealth characteristics of the F-35 will be very limited, especially in the specific scenarios the IAF is about to operate.
Will the IAF get automatic approval to buy additional aircraft? Some experts say that once a first squadron is operational, the need for a second one is obvious. They may be right, but many questions will have to be answered before almost all the foreign military financing for the US is again earmarked for that purpose.