Israel unveils world's largest UAV

fighting in those theaters use Israeli-designed UAVs. France deploys the Heron, the Eitan’s smaller predecessor, and is expected to acquire the new system. The British use the Hermes 450 built by Israel’s Elbit Systems.

Elbit recently announced the development of the Hermes 900, with longer endurance, higher ceiling and advanced satellite communications. It, too, is reported to be able to reach Iran.

The Israeli navy plans to use unmanned craft on counter-terrorism missions along the Mediterranean coast. At least two systems have been acquired, including one known as the Protector, developed by Rafael Advanced Systems Ltd.

The Israeli defense industry has been undergoing profound change in recent years, reflecting developments in military doctrine and in the nature of the military threats. In January, the government announced it would stop covering the deficit of Israel Military Industries, which had specialized in manufacturing guns and ammunition such as Uzi submachine guns, artillery barrels, and mortars. This is now deemed to be part of the traditional arms industry that has become non-competitive.

Instead, the primary focus has switched to the high-tech sector, which has helped cushion the economy during the global recession and is a major factor in economic growth. Precision weaponry, electronic systems, and miniaturization, including robotics, is now the primary focus.

Israel claims it is the third largest defense equipment exporter in the world, even though it is restricted from selling systems that contain U.S. components. IAI had to drop a $2 billion sale of Phalcon early warning aircraft to China because the Pentagon blocked it for that reason.

According to official figures, despite a drop in defense exports of 18.5 percent in 2009, the value of export sales rose to $6.75 billion — up from $6.3 billion in 2008.

The Israeli industry has frequently developed specialties because of particular problems the military encountered in its countless operations against its many foes over the years. As an example, it was the need to find a counter to Soviet-designed missiles that shot down a quarter of the air force in the first days of the 1973 war against Egypt and Syria that led the Israelis into developing UAVs. Within two decades they were the acknowledged masters of that specialty.

The army’s problems in urban fighting during the Palestinian uprisings, where the use of armor was greatly restricted, led to the development of lightweight armor for small vehicles such as jeeps to protect their crews. The U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan produced armor exports totaling $2.3 billion.