Limitations on the transfer of advanced technologies embedded in the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Heron TP unmanned air vehicle are making a competition with the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reaper in India more complicated for the Israeli company.
"The restrictions that the Israeli Ministry of Defence attaches to the export of this advanced UAV are many, and in such a close competition may be a crucial factor," one Israeli source tells FlightGlobal.
India last year signed up to the international Missile Technology Control Regime, which oversees the sale of equipment including long-range and long-endurance UAVs.
IAI has proposed local production and assembly of an XP variant of its Heron TP, to address New Delhi’s “Make in India” policy, partnering with Dynamatic Technologies and Elcom Systems. Their teaming agreement also covers support provisions for future operations with the type.
Israeli sources say that with the competition now nearing a selection decision, the issue of technology transfer has become “very real”.
The US Congress has already given its approval to a potential MQ-9 sale to India.
Meanwhile, Israel’s defence ministry is to place additional restrictions on companies that plan to demonstrate armed UAVs to potential foreign customers.
To run from offering such systems through to their demonstration and making requests for an export licence, the new process represents “a total change of policy – especially when it comes to certain clients”, an Israeli source says.
Israel's policy shift comes after an incident that led to the temporary suspension of a licence issued to Aeronautics Defense Systems to export its armed Orbiter 1K loitering UAV to Azerbaijan. The decision is linked to an ongoing investigation, launched after claims that the system had been demonstrated against live Armenian targets.
Aeronautics denies that such activity took place, noting: “We never demonstrate our systems against live targets and that rule was kept in this case.”
Under a long-standing relationship between the Israeli company and Azerbaijan, local production of the unarmed Orbiter 2 and 3 has already been performed.
Israeli companies have reported a growing interest in their armed UAVs since the start of this year.