Israeli defense industries will be looking to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in new contracts next week at the Latin American Aerospace & Defense (LAAD) Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro.Israel’s large defense firms – Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Elbit Systems and Rafael – as well as some of the country’s smaller companies will put their wares on display.Defense officials say South America is emerging as a new market for Israel, which is facing a possible drop in exports due to the global financial crisis and the upcoming withdrawal of US military forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.In 2009, Israel was the fourth-largest exporter of weaponry and military platforms in the world, behind the US, Russia and France, securing some $7.5 billion in new contracts. While contracts signed in 2010 have yet to be tallied, estimates in the Israeli defense establishment say the numbers will be slightly lower.Israeli companies have experienced steady sales amounting to about $500 million annually in Brazil, which signed a confidentiality agreement with Israel in 2010 under which it cannot transfer classified technology to a third party. The agreement paved the way for Israeli companies to begin offering the country some of their most advanced systems.Israeli firms are bidding for multi-million dollar defense contracts, as well as homeland security deals, ahead of the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016, both of which are to be held in Brazil.Last May, IAI won a $350m.deal to supply the long-range Heron unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to the Brazilian Federal Police. Elbit recently secured two large deals in Brazil, including a contract in January to supply Hermes 450 UAVs to the Brazilian Air Force.Ahead of the expo, IAI announced this week that it was in the advanced stages of development of its new drone called Electric Tethered Observation Platform (ETOP), a squareshaped UAV that can hover over targets and transmit footage to commanders on the ground.ETOP can carry a payload of up to 20 kg., and operate at a maximum altitude of 100 meters at only the press of a button, thus eliminating the need for a fulltime operator. IAI says ETOP is suited to both ground and maritime operations and can be used in security operations at critical infrastructure or border areas.