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Published in the Middle East Feb/Mar 2021 Supplement – The flurry of normalisation agreements between Israel and Arab countries means Israeli defence contractors can now exhibit at Gulf defence events.

The political and public disunity between many Arab nations, including those in the Gulf, and the state of Israel has gradually been easing over the last few decades. Egypt and Jordan were early signatories to peace treaties in 1979 and 1994 respectively.

Now in 2020, there has been a significant breakthrough with the United States brokered Abraham Accords which has seen Israel and four Arab League countries – Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Morocco – normalising diplomatic relations. While a certain amount of ‘below the table’ business and commerce has always been present, including surveillance defence equipment, this normalisation has allowed all parties to now engage formally and openly (as much as that ever does in defence).

One of the main ‘drivers’ in terms of security is that the majority of Gulf Arab states and Israel share a common adversary, the Islamic Republic of Iran. Islamic fundamentalism is as much of a threat to the absolute rulers of the Gulf states as it is to the western democratic nations. Israel too would not wish to have any of its Arab neighbours transformed into hostile countries.

For the first time therefore, Israeli defence companies will be exhibiting at IDEX, the major Gulf international defence exhibition and conference, 21-25 February 2021.

We talked to a couple of Israeli companies – the Aeronautics Group and SK group (IWI, Meprolight, Camero) – to get their thoughts on exhibiting for the first time at IDEX.

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Armada International: How will the agreement to normalise relations between Israel and some of the Arabic countries affect your business opportunities?

Aeronautics: Aeronautics is proud to participate for the first time at IDEX exhibition.  The recently signed peace agreement with the UAE opens up many avenues for regional cooperation. Israel and the Emirates share similar operational needs and Aeronautics Group offers solutions to meet those needs. Thus, we believe that there are many potential and different opportunities for mutual cooperation that up until now was restricted. Moreover, there is a significant openness for business collaborations and productive partnerships in the Gulf region.

SK Group: The new agreement between the governments opens new opportunities for the entire SK Group, including IWI, Meprolight, Camero and Uniscope. Our solutions meet with the needs of defence and security forces in the region. Marketing and selling efforts will be according to the Israeli MOD regulations.

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AI: What are the key products/systems that you believe are suitable for this market?

Aeronautics: These are among the top [defence] markets in the world and so are seeking the best of breed when it comes to defence applications and solutions. UAVs in particular provide the most accurate intelligence while maintaining confidentiality and reliability, can be rapidly deployed and easily maintained.

Aeronautics offers integrated turnkey solutions based on unmanned systems platforms, payloads and communications for defence and homeland security (HLS) markets.These include: the Dominator – a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAS is designed to carry multiple large payloads and to perform tactical and strategic, long-range BLOS missions; and the Orbiter UAS family (Orbiter 2, Orbiter 4, and Orbiter 1K).

Orbiter 2: More than 1000 units of the Orbiter 2 have been delivered and supplied to dozens of customers worldwide. It offers a low silhouette and silent operation, a 100km range, dual payload, encrypted, digital datalink, frequency hopping and simple assembly.

Orbiter 4 STUAS, is an advanced multi-mission platform that can simultaneously carry multiple payloads, extending its ISTAR capabilities. It can be operate in all weather conditions, under-cloud base, with optional satellite communications capability providing high image quality.

Orbiter 1K is a loitering munition class UAS based on Aeronautics’ mature, combat-proven Orbiter 2B Mini UAS. it offers long endurance, persistence presence over the target area, high precision strike with low collateral effects, is covert, electric powered, has artillery mode capability and fully operational in GPS denied areas.

SK Group: Day and night sights including our thermal solutions and variety of our small arms weapon and light machine gun that are relevant for defence and security personnel.

At IDEX, IWI will highlight the Carmel assault rifle, the ARAD multi caliber assault rifle, which was launched in 2019, the 5.56mm and 7.62mm NEGEV light machine gun, the Dan 338 Bolt Action Sniper Rifle and the Masada striker fired pistol. Meprolight will highlight its Mini-Hunter – lightweight night vision weapon sight, the MEPRO NYX-200, an uncooled thermal sight and the Mepro M21 day/nigh self-illuminated reflex sight.

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AI: Are you now contemplating (or are in the process of forming / or have already formed) a joint venture company in the Gulf (GCC)?

Aeronautics: The Group has a vast experience creating partnerships and business cooperation including know-how technology transfer final assembly capabilities, production for government authorities in those countries where there is a significant activity and a need for local support. The company is looking into different opportunities in the region, whether it is JV, partnership or any other business cooperation in order to provide the end user with the best solutions and systems Aeronautic offers and local support if needed.

SK Group: We are looking for a local cooperation.

AI: Are you restricted in what you can export by technology transfer issues?

Aeronautics: Aeronautics’ solutions have dozens of years of proven experience in developing defence and Intelligence solutions, based on identifying and recognising operational challenges and needs of the end user. We are proud to be an Israeli company and as such we are subject to the Israeli and the international laws and regulations regarding the exporting of intelligence systems and products and we will continue to work accordingly.

SK Group: The SK Group always complies with the Israeli MOD restrictions and regulations.

by Andrew Drwiega