Eyes in the Skies: Israel’s Way Out in Front, with Pioneering Engineering and a Strong Sales Force

One of the greatest tools for Israeli espionage is the capability — for decades, the best in the Middle East — to put eyes on the enemy from high above, without even risking the lives of spies and pilots.

photo from Elbit Systems Ltd.

A new study of the global market for UAV’s (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) shows that Israel is the top exporter of the hardware and software that many countries are starting to use.

The United States military and the CIA operate their own fleets of drone aircraft, and despite the assumptions made by some observers, the Americans manufacture their own and insist that theirs are the best in the world.

The market study was published, for private clients, by the business research firm Frost & Sullivan and is reported by Haaretz.

It says that in the past eight years, Israel sold drones for dozens of nations for a total of $4.6 billion.  The customers included India, which has become Israel’s largest market for arms sales.  The United Kingdom and other NATO alliance members — such as Poland, Turkey, and even some customers in the U.S. — have also bought drones from Israel.

A sale to France is now being negotiated, and sales have gone through to Nigeria and Kenya in Africa — which both face terrorist threats.  Angola and Azerbaijan have also bought drones.

Israel was the first country to use pilotless aircraft for intelligence-gathering, as early as the late 1970s. These days, Israel uses them to keep a close eye on Palestinian extremists in Gaza, the Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, and developments in Syria’s volatile civil war.

Note the absence of a cockpit or windows.

Drones were also used to track Iranian arms supplies to Hamas, even at remote locations in the Red Sea and along the coast of Sudan.

The Americans use their drones — which often have precision missiles mounted on them — to attack al-Qaeda and Taliban positions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, and Somalia. Although not acknowledged by the U.S. government, American drone aircraft have also spied in the skies over Iran.

Israeli-made drone aircraft come in many sizes. Surveillance targets are meant never to notice the smallest ones, high overhead. There are wide-bodied UAVs that can be equipped with cameras, listening devices, and missiles. These are capable in all weather conditions, on sunny days and during dark nights, and can stay in the air for as long as 48 hours.

May 19, 2013

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