According to newly-published data, Israel has been the world's number one UAVs exporter since the mid-2000s.
Released by business consultants Frost & Sullivan, the study notes that, among Israel's arms exports over the past eight years, UAVs constitute almost ten per cent. In 2008 alone, the country supplied $150m worth of drones to foreign customers while, in the following year, no less than $650m worth were delivered overseas. Then, in 2010, Israeli UAV exports reached an all-time high of $979 million.
Since then, they've decreased to reach last year's $260 million total but that doesn't account for upgrade contracts, like that signed with India in 2012. Incorporating upgrades into the mix would boost Israel's annual UAV export figures by approximately $100m, the Frost & Sullivan study suggests.
Israel's UAV Exports
Between 2005 and 2012, Israel's UAV exports were strongly regional in nature. Approximately 50 per cent of them went to customers in Europe, while a further third went to customers in the Asia-Pacific region. Of the remainder, South American customers accounted for circa 11 per cent, while the United States' Israeli UAV imports made up less than four per cent of the exports total.
Thanks to continued foreign interest and some major deals-in-waiting, Israel's UAV exports are forecast to grow in years ahead, Frost & Sullivan's researchers conclude.
Some of the best-known Israeli UAV designs are the Hermes 450 and the huge Eitan. Manufactured by Elbit Systems, the Hermes 450 was introduced in 1998 and can carry out reconnaissance and surveillance missions lasting some 20 hours. It's in service with many armed forces including the Brazilian Air Force, the Mexican Air Force and the British Army. Meantime, the Israeli Air Force has taken the Hermes 450's role further, adding a pair of missiles to convert it into an armed unmanned weapon.
Israel Aerospace Industries' Eitan MALE (medium-altitude, long-endurance) UAV is as big as a commercial airliner, weighs around a tonne and also has about a 20 hour endurance. Developed from the IAI Heron, the Eitan first flew in 2004 and was formally commissioned into Israeli Air Force service in 2010.