Morocco, Thailand to procure Israeli drones

BlueBird Aero Systems describes the ThunderB VTOL as a “robust, innovative and versatile” system that can be used for “long-range, covert, real-time day and cooled-IR stabilized payloads.”

AN ISRAELI drone patrols the skies over the Gaza Strip. (photo credit: DARREN WHITESIDE / REUTERS)
AN ISRAELI drone patrols the skies over the Gaza Strip.
(photo credit: DARREN WHITESIDE / REUTERS)

Morocco has purchased 150 drones from Israel’s BlueBird Aero Systems to use in a variety of military operations.

According to the Spanish Infrodron news platform and local Moroccan news sites, the procurement of the WanderB and ThunderB VTOL systems will support the capabilities of the Moroccan military, which will use them for both ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) missions as well as armed operations.

A portion of the unmanned aerial systems will be built in Morocco, Infrodon reported.

The ThunderB VTOL system

BlueBird Aero Systems describes the ThunderB VTOL as a “robust, innovative and versatile” system that can be used for “long-range, covert, real-time day and cooled-IR stabilized payloads” for ISR and target acquisition operations.

The unmanned aircraft system can be rapidly deployed by a two-man crew. It can be used in harsh weather conditions, has an endurance of 12 hours, a communication range of up to 150 km. (93 miles) with a digital link and tracking antenna, and a maximum takeoff weight of 35 kg. (77 lbs.).

A drone is launched during a military exercise in an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on August 25, 2022. (credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)A drone is launched during a military exercise in an undisclosed location in Iran, in this handout image obtained on August 25, 2022. (credit: IRANIAN ARMY/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

The ThunderB VTROL has high-performance sensors, communication and software algorithms and provides rapid GPS-marked high-definition video, photogrammetric tactical mapping on demand and more.

The system, which can take off and land vertically in confined areas, can also be operated by naval forces, with an option to transfer control of the drone to ships at sea or be operated directly from the ship’s deck.

The WanderB system

The WanderB has an endurance of 2.5 hours and a communication range of 50 km. (31 miles). The platform’s low acoustic and radar signatures, as well as the ability of such a multi-copter to take off and land in small clearings and urban rooftops, gives it an edge in covert operations.

It has three integrated communication links to allow for mission continuity even in environments where there are jammers. Like the ThunderB, it can be operated by a two-man crew with no additional infrastructure needed to carry out the mission.

The acquisition of the drones comes almost a year after the two countries signed a defense agreement that set a solid security cooperation framework formalizing defense relations between Jerusalem and Rabat, allowing for increased cooperation in the fields of intelligence, industrial collaboration, military training and more.

Israel-Morocco ties

Israel and Morocco have had close economic, diplomatic and military ties for years, formally normalizing ties as part of the Abraham Accords two years ago. Earlier in August Morocco’s Chief of the Royal Armed Forces Lt.-Gen. Belkhir El Farouk visited  Israel for the first time and took part in an international innovation conference held by the IDF.

A leader in defense, the world has for many years looked to the Jewish state for security and intelligence, with Israel’s defense industry having international companies exporting to countries worldwide.

According to SIBAT, the Defense Ministry’s military exports unit, military exports by Israel brought in $11.2 billion dollars in 2021, with 7% of that to Arab countries who have signed the Abraham Accords.

The figure is significantly more than what it has been in the past 20 years, with Israel bringing in $8.3b. dollars in 2020, $7.2b. in 2019 and $7.5b. in 2018.

According to SIBAT, 9% of exports were drone systems and UAVs.

On Wednesday, Elbit systems announced that it had been awarded a $120 million contract to supply Thailand with the Hermes 900 Maritime drones along with training capabilities.

The statement released by the company said that the system, which has an endurance of 36 hours and a cruising speed of 112 km/hour, will allow the Royal Thai Navy to perform “blue water and littoral missions, dominate vast swathes of sea and long coastlines, communicate with operational vessels and carry out civilian mission such as maritime Search and Rescue and identification of suspicious activities and potential hazards.”

The statement released by the company said that the system, which has an endurance of 36 hours and a cruising speed of 112 kph (70 mph), will allow the Royal Thai Navy to perform “blue water and littoral missions, dominate vast swaths of sea and long coastlines, communicate with operational vessels and carry out civilian missions, such as maritime Search and Rescue and identification of suspicious activities and potential hazards.”

The contract with the Royal Thai Navy will be performed over a three-year period and will see the Israeli company provide it with the UAS, maritime radar, electro-optic payload, satellite communication, droppable inflated life rafts and other capabilities.