Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) has taken a stake in newly formed unmanned air vehicle manufacturer Aeronautics in an effort to secure its leading position in the sector. Efforts by General Dynamics to acquire a controlling interest in the company have been thwarted by the Israeli defence ministry.

Israel's premier aerospace company has paid $3 million for a 25 % share of Aeronautics, a company owned by private investors. Part of the share purchase agreement gives Aeronautics exclusive rights to develop and manufacture small tactical UAVs for Israeli and export markets.

IAI's Malat division will continue its sales and development activities in the tactical market with products ranging in size from its Searcher UAV upwards.

The move is partly a response to the growing competition from Silver Arrow, the local UAV systems developer acquired in the late 1990s by Elbit Systems.

Immediately following the acquisition by IAI, General Dynamics offered to purchase a 51% stake in the company. That plan was vetoed by the Israeli defence ministry as Aeronautics is involved in a number of classified UAV programmes. Resolution of the problem has taken the form of a joint venture in the USA to pursue developments and opportunities in export markets.

General Dynamics, which is already a partner with IAI in business jet manufacture, has selected the Aeronautics Aerostar short range tactical UAV system for a competition in Canada and is funding development of a tilt rotor UAV purchased by Aeronautics for potential maritime applications.

Source: Flight International