Israel had loaned drones to NATO allies previously in Afghanistan, and Iraq. I believe even to Canadian armed forces in the Afghani theatre. The reports from the field have been glowing, the hardware was making a huge difference. The little hand launched Skylark drone was rumored to be in great favor with American forces and Israeli hardware was quickly being looked at in greater quantity by the US DOD. Now this success in the field may have broken open a Canadian dam, the ban on purchases of hardware from the holy land..
TORONTO – Canada’s decision to supply its troops in Afghanistan with two Israeli models of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), starting in February 2009, brings to an end a long-standing policy in the defence ministry that had prohibited the purchase of Israeli equipment. Indeed, the policy was so rigorously enforced that even camping equipment that could be used for military purposes had been banned.
Two years ago, at a meeting between B’nai Brith Canada leaders and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of the organization, had asked why Canadian troops weren’t being supplied with the absolute best military equipment available. The prime minister indicated he would look into the matter.
As a result of the new policy coming into effect after considerable debate among Canadian parliamentarians, the French Sperwer that’s currently in use will be replaced by the Israeli Heron and Skylark drones, which are designed to better withstand Middle Eastern weather and environmental conditions, in particular the heat, wind and sandy dust, known as hamsin.
According to analysts, it also has a quieter engine, flies higher, carries more weight and can operate for a longer period. Some MPs have questioned the decision after more than $250 million had been spent on the French product.
“As Canadians, we are now relieved knowing that our frontline soldiers will have the best equipment, and we’re pleased that a biased policy has been removed from the government,” Dimant said. Canada’s decision came at the end of a year of negotiations with Israel Aircraft Industries (AIF), and the deal could total $125 million over six years.
The 998-kilogram Herons – Israel’s first long-rage UAV with an estimated range of up to 3,300 kilometres – will be delivered to the Canadian air force, while the Skylark mini-UAVs – launched by hand and used for close-range surveillance and reconnaissance – will be used by ground troops.
The Heron is deployed and tested by Israel, a newer version known as Eitan that is based on the huge Heron platform is now also in use by Israel with even more advanced electronic systems. Both platforms may be able to do more than just look around, rumored to be able to uhh.. deliver payloads.
The tiny Skylark looks like a model airplane, while the Heron is nearly the size of a small fighter. Good news for brave Canadian forces taking the fight to terrorists far from home, and yet another fine example of Harper’s responsible leadership – Putting Canadian forces above previous Liberal government idiocy which slashed budgets, gave little moral support, and evidently kept top notch hardware out of Canadian hands. One can only hope this is the start of a fruitful relationship benefiting both nations going forward.
Video of the Heron & capabilities