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Israeli UAVs on an uproll

Israel's UAVs now rival America's in the skies over war-torn Afghanistan as NATO and allied forces increasingly turn to them for gathering intelligence on the Taliban.
by Staff Writers
Tel Aviv, Israel (UPI) Nov 16, 2009
Israel Aerospace Industries has signed a $350 million deal with Brazil to supply Heron unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol the South American nation's borders and provide security for the 2014 World Cup tournament and the 2016 Olympic Games.

All told the state-run company, flagship of Israel's defense industry, will provide 14 drones over several years, three of them by April 2010.

The deal comes amid a big surge in sales of Israeli UAVs worldwide, particularly with nations providing military forces in Afghanistan where UAVs have become a major component in the war against the Taliban and their jihadist allies.

The Brazilian contract, signed during a visit to Rio de Janiero by Israeli President Shimon Peres, marks a major Israeli move into that key South American market.

It coincides with reports that Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, one of the Jewish state's major defense companies, is in an advanced stage of negotiations to acquire a Brazilian defense firm valued at an estimated $50 million.

It would be Israel's first corporate acquisition in Brazil, Latin America's economic powerhouse, and give Rafael an opening to expand its operations there.

Senior executives of Rafael, Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries accompanied Peres on his visit to Brazil.

Elbit is the largest Israeli defense company operating in Brazil, with sales of $750 million over the last decade. IAI has established a joint venture with Brazil's Synergy Group, whose products include UAVs.

Israel's UAVs now rival America's in the skies over war-torn Afghanistan as NATO and allied forces increasingly turn to them for gathering intelligence on the Taliban.

Germany recently acquired several of IAI's Heron aircraft, the fifth allied nation with troops in Afghanistan to use Israeli UAVs. The others are Canada, Australia, France and Britain.

All told, foreign militaries have bought 40 Israeli UAVs of different types in recent years, and the market continues to expand as advanced technologies become available and UAVs acquire new capabilities and missions.

The Israeli UAVs, widely used in the Jewish state's conflicts in the Middle East, are combat-proven and have found new markets because of a shortage of U.S. Predators, the main U.S. system employed in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater of operations.

The missions include airstrikes using UAVs armed with air-to-ground Hellfire missiles to hit al-Qaida and Taliban leadership cadres, a tactic that has in the last 18 months killed at least a dozen top field commanders.

The Herons, equipped with 1,200-horsepower engines, can stay aloft for 52 hours at a stretch and have wide-ranging tracking and targeting capabilities.

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