Israel and the UAE cement their newfound relationship with a military agreement aimed at drones.
The announcement by state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) that it would team up with its counterpart in the United Arab Emirates, EDGE, marks another step in the deepening of relations between the two sides since their normalisation last year.
In a statement, the major Israeli defence company, IAI, said that the companies will work on a “Counter-Unmanned Aircraft System” or anti-drone technology.
IAI went on to say that the anti-drone technology would be “tailored to the UAE market, with wide-ranging benefits for the MENA region and beyond.”
The UAE has faced several regional setbacks in recent years, which has inflamed regional tensions.
It had to withdraw from Yemen early in 2020 after being unable to win against the Iranian backed Houthi group. And in Libya, it faced a series of setbacks after Turkish drones backing the internationally recognised government of Libya halted the advance of the UAE backed warlord and self-styled General Khalifa Haftar.
Israeli weapons manufacturers are also keenly aware of the monetary potential of selling defence systems to the UAE, an area that the country is a world leader in, says Dr Liran Antebi, Manager of advanced technologies and national security program at the INSS and Israeli based security think tank.
“For several years, although the threat of drones was familiar, the issue was not really addressed in the national defence circles, among other reasons for budgetary reasons. Today drones are being taken seriously because of the understanding that they may be a real threat to both the military forces and the civilian population,” says Antebi speaking to TRT World.
The UAE is somewhat of a latecomer to drone technology. The country’s state-owned defence firm EDGE only in early 2020 unveiled its first locally produced drone.
The Houthis in Yemen have increasingly used drones, with alleged Iranian backing, to strike deep into Saudi Arabia and have in the past warned the UAE that continued military interference in the country could result in similar attacks.
The UAE has also likely taken note of Turkish advances in drone technology that have given it an edge, most recently helping Azerbaijan liberate territory occupied by Armenia in the Karabakh region. Israeli drones, incidentally, also played a role in helping Azerbaijan.
“Cooperation between Israel and UAE in the field of anti-UAV systems has emerged as a new case that Turkey should follow closely,” Yusuf Akbaba, a Turkish defence industry researcher, says.
“The UAE has been involved in activities against Turkey in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus, North Africa, Somalia, Sudan, and even in Central Asia. That the support UAE gave to Greece and its obvious position in the Libyan conflict has clearly shown us UAE’s actions against Turkey,” warns Akbaba speaking to TRT World.
The UAE has defence cooperation agreements with several countries, including Serbia, Ukraine and China, as it seeks to build an indigenous defence industry.
The UAE’s cooperation with Israel, while militarily significant, is also politically important. Akbaba, however, cautions that while the content and details of the system that could emerge from Israeli-UAE cooperation are unknown, “Turkey shouldn’t worry too much,” he says.
“Turkish UAVs successfully performed against Russian-made electronic warfare systems and air defence systems in Libya and the battle in Karabakh. New-developed UAVs have also been equipped with systems against possible threats from electronic warfare and missiles that can be launched from air defence systems,” Akbaba added.