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Sunday, July 24, 2011

France ending 42-year arms embargo on Israel

It's been 42 years since France sold arms to or bought arms from Israel. Now, the French are going to be buying Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles.
The French Defense Ministry decided last week to purchase unmanned aerial vehicles from Israel, thereby bringing an end to a 42-year-old embargo on weapon purchases imposed by President Charles de Gaulle. The approved sale of Heron TP, or Eitan, will be the first time the drone is sold to a foreign country.

The Eitan is the largest and most sophisticated drone made in Israel. It is assembled by Israel Aerospace Industries, and went into operational service in the Israeli Air Force a year and a half ago. The Eitan has a wingspan of 26 meters – similar to that of a Boeing 737. It is capable of carrying out reconnaissance and intelligence missions in an altitude of up to 40,000 feet, and can remain airborne 36 hours. Eitan's large size allows it to carry a variety of equipment such as radars, sensors and camera, and, theoretically, missiles.

The French embargo had two immediate results: the first being that Israel began purchasing American fighter jets, first the Skyhawk, then the F-15 and F-16 and now the F-35, billed as the Israeli Air Forces next fighter aircraft. The second result was the acceleration of the domestic fighter jet industry.

The first plane assembled in Israel was the Eagle, in effect an Israeli-made French Mirage, using plans and sketches smuggled out of France. The Kfir fighter was later assembled, followed by the Lavi program, which was canceled after two prototypes were built.

The grounding of the Lavi caused the Israel Aerospace Industry and other companies such as Elbit to shift their focus to unmanned drones. Today, Israel is considered a leading player in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Israel Aerospace Industries refused to comment on the deal, but a senior security industry official said on the weekend that "this is a truly and historically coming full circle. The French embargo and de Gaulle's refusal to provide us with a French jet that was developed with Israeli expertise gave the Israeli industry a push, and now it the one providing France with an Israeli plane."
Although canceling the Lavi was a mistake, in retrospect, we ought to thank the French for helping us to realize our own capabilities.

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At 6:06 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The French embargo helped Israel develop its own aerospace industry. I don't think there would have been much urgency in Israel to create one if the French hadn't tried to punish Israel - which turned out to be a blessing in disguise!

At 8:34 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

Selling good stuff to the allies! But I hope Israel keeps a few tricks up your sleeves to yourselves... I think somewhere along the line, someone gave Iran night vision as part of a drug interdiction program. Well, that turned out just great.

At 9:25 PM, Blogger Jason H. Elbaum said...

Why are you so sure canceling Lavi was a mistake? What capability was Israel lacking that would have made a strategic difference in the past 20 years? Arguably, we were better off freeing up IAI to develop more innovative technologies.


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