A new memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by Israel Aerospace Industries and EDGE, the UAE’s advanced technology group, will seek to develop advanced C-UAS (Counter-Unmanned Aircraft System) solutions “tailored to the UAE market, with wider-ranging benefits for the MENA [Middle East and North Africa] region and beyond,” the companies have announced.
This is a very important development. First, it comes in the wake of the Abraham Accords. Second, it comes after the IDEX defense exhibition in Abu Dhabi, where Israeli companies participated for the first time this year. Third, it meets a growing demand by countries in the region and around the world to stop drone threats.
The memorandum notes that IAI already has an anti-drone solution called Drone Guard. It is similar to systems from Israel’s other leading defense giants, such as Drone Dome by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
IAI’s radar subsidiary, Elta, is a leader in radar, and Israel, as a whole, is a leader in developing radar, electro-optics and jamming, and missile and laser technology to take down drones.
EDGE is “a young and disruptive company that has recently launched a series of Electronic Warfare solutions at a rapid pace. [It] is leveraging its subsidiary, SIGN4L, a leading provider of electronic warfare services and solutions for national security, to collaborate with the Israeli defense manufacturer to build the tailored C-UAS Solution,” the companies said Thursday.
Drone threats are growing rapidly. US Central Command believes that off-the-shelf drones are a major emerging problem. We saw these threats in the ISIS battle in Mosul, where drones were used by the terror group against coalition forces. In addition, Iran is constantly building new drones.
Iran-backed Houthis use drones daily against Saudi Arabia, and Hezbollah and Hamas each have drones. Iran even flew a drone from the T-4 base into Israeli airspace in 2018 and Israel used a helicopter to shoot it down.
Drones can be shot down with missiles and guns but they can also be jammed and engaged with lasers. Many companies are working on a plethora of solutions although just as in the early days of air defense, it takes time to hone the solution to the threat.
Israel is a leader in deploying new defense technology and the UAE is also a leader in technology and is aware of the growing threat. This makes the countries well placed to collaborate. The new MoU is a symbol of these new ties as well, because Israel and the UAE are rapidly becoming a hub of new technology and start-ups, and for exploiting advances in artificial intelligence and other concepts.
Countering drones is a good place for Israeli and UAE defense tech to begin, because the systems are defensive, not controversial, and pose no threat to other countries. The need for multi-layered air defense is something Israel knows well from developing Iron Dome, David’s Sling and the Arrow missiles and interceptors.
Countering drones is a different matter because while you can use high priced missiles to down them, jamming them and using lasers and other weapons, including using drones to attack other drones, can be much cheaper and are all within the realm of possibility.
What is important for countries like Saudi Arabia is plugging all the gaps in defenses to make sure no drones can get through – and have them rapidly engaged if they do. The attack on Abqaiq in 2019, when Iran launched drones and cruise missiles to attack Saudi Arabia, illustrates the problem. Some 25 munitions were flown from Iran to Saudi Arabia, around radar and air defenses.
Better drone solutions will include more radar, more electro-optics to confirm the threat visually, and the ability to attempt jamming and use “hard kill” options to take them down.