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  • Selling drones, selling the Israeli experience (Security Industry: links between Israel and the Netherlands?)

    Israel’s homeland security industry is not just a conglomerate of industries – both state companies as well as privatised business – it entails, as Neve Gordon argues, the “Israeli experience.” This idea helps explain the success story of Israel’s homeland security industry in the global market. Neve Gordon concludes that there is an economic motivation to produce and reproduce the so-called security related experiences and to diversify them. He claims that “the Israeli experience is perceived as extremely valuable and attractive because it manages to connect between a hyper-militaristic existence, a neoliberal economic agenda, and democracy.” With the Unmanned Armed Vehicles (UAVs or drones) as an example, this section sketches out the road from military to civilian use of homeland security products – including in the Netherlands.

    The industry sees the ‘Israeli experience’ as a prime selling point, their PR material shows. Take for example the glossy government brochure entitled ‘Israel Homeland Security: Opportunities for Industrial Cooperation’, which claims: “No other advanced technology country has such a large proportion of citizens with real time experience in the army, security and police forces.” In the section called “Learning from Israel’s Experience” one reads that, “Many of these professionals continue to work as international consultants and experts after leaving the Israel Defence Forces, police or other defence and security organisations. Typically, these former officers, who also include scientists and engineers, not only have hands-on experience and know-how of traditional security activities, they are also familiar with the broad range of high-tech technologies and equipment, which are available to enhance safety and make security systems more efficient and effective.”

    The Israeli homeland security industry is built on the history of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and thrives from the occupation of Palestinian Territories. As a consequence, all trade with the Israeli homeland security supports the occupation and its continuation. To put it simply, this effectively turns their trade partners into brothers in crime. And, following the concept of the “Israeli experience”, it is not just pure business relations; it is also the exchange of know-how and the feeling of being under threat that is of importance. As the president of a leading homeland security company puts it: “Israel has been meeting the challenge of terror for decades before 9/11, and in those years of hands-on, real-time experience in overcoming terror lays our country’s first competitive advantage.”


    A good example to illustrate the international influence of the Israeli homeland security industry and the “Israeli experience” is the advance of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), in both military and civil use. Israel was the first country to widely adopt and integrate UAVs into its armed forces. The Israeli Air Force pioneered using them in the late 1970s and 1980s, and used them successfully during operations in Lebanon in 1982. Military esteem of Israeli UAVs further grew after the first Gulf War during Desert Storm. The speed of technological advance since then has led to constant reassessments of UAVs’ battlefield potential and the dedication of increasing resources to development and procurement by armed forces worldwide, as Jimmy Johnson concluded in his analysis in February 2009. Even though Israel has only a fraction of America’s resources, Israel is an important competitor. The country’s early entry into the field, plus the fact that the technology is “battle-tested” and thus proven to be reliable and effective, gives Israel a huge advantage. As Jimmy Johnson summarised: “Every military operation, not by intent per se, acts as an advertisement for the weapons and techniques used.” The Israeli military also advertises the use  and success of its UAVs in its most recent assault on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead: “Thanks to the use of UAVs…the [army] has been attaining footage captured from the air, above the Gaza Strip, and collecting data for the ground forces in Gaza.” (The Fellowship of Reconciliation in the UK recently addressed the growing “accountability vacuum” about armed drone attacks and the worrying “Play Station mentality” that comes with it. Their report “Convenient Killing” highlighted the number of casualties including civilians’ deaths in Gaza).

    There are numerous kinds of unmanned aerial surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition products as well as border and coastal surveillance equipment, and Israel is one of the leading producers. Of all UAV systems transferred internationally between 2001 and 2005, 68 percent were Israeli-supplied. With the US’s Predator and Pioneer models both based on Israeli designs, and IAI and Elbit cornering most of the remainder of the export market, UAV transfers overwhelmingly involve Israeli-designed systems. A recent report of Statewatch points out that the USA will take over 70% of the future market because of an increasing interest by the US military, which in turn is linked to a “general trend towards information warfare”. However, Rand Corporation pointed at increased civilian use in 2006 stating that the UAVs could be deployed to monitor resources such as forest and farm lands, wetlands, dams, reservoirs, wildlife (e.g., in nature reserves) or traffic in the near future. Meanwhile, the trend of non- military use of drones is developing in a less-peaceful direction toward their use on the homeland security front.

    In the UK, the Guardian revealed in January 2010, the police are planning to use unmanned spy drones for the “routine” monitoring of antisocial motorists, protesters, agricultural thieves and fly-tippers, in a significant expansion of covert state surveillance. The arms manufacturer BAE Systems is adapting the military-style planes for a consortium of government agencies led by Kent police and backed by the Home Office. The Kent police stressed that civilian UAVs would “greatly extend” the government’s surveillance capacity and “revolutionise policing.” Military drones would be useful “in the policing of major events, whether they be protests or the Olympics”. Interest in their use in the UK had “developed after the terrorist attack in Mumbai”. Previously, Kent police had said the drone scheme was intended for use over the English Channel to monitor shipping and detect immigrants crossing from France. However, the documents suggest that the maritime focus was, at least in part, a public relations strategy designed to minimise civil liberty concerns. “There is potential for these [maritime] uses to be projected as a ‘good news’ story to the public rather than more ‘big brother’,” a minute from the one of the earliest meetings, in July 2007, states. (The Guardian obtained the documents under the Freedom of Information Act).

    The Dutch introduction to drones reflects the international developments in this field. The first use was military and started with the testing of – amongst others – Israeli vehicles. Meanwhile, the market offers a wider choice and the Ministry of Defence has opted for material of European and American origin. In 2006, the Army tested the Aladin produced by the German EMT and the Skylark from Israeli manufacturer Elbit Systems Ltd. in Afghanistan. They also looked into Elbit’s Hermes 1500 and the Heron produced by Israel Aerospace Industries. At the end of 2007 two American systems were to be tested, the Desert Hawk and the Raven. At present, in 2010, the Dutch Army uses the Sperwer UAV produced in France by Sagem Défense Sécurité, and the Raven mini-UAV, produced by the American company AeroVironment. However, the Sperwer is up for replacement in 2011, which offers a new window of opportunity for the Israeli industry.

    In 2007 and 2008, the Dutch mission in Afghanistan depended on intelligence delivered by the Army’s own reconnaissance platoon utilising the Sperwer UAV. The images of enemy movements are crucial inputs for decisions on life and death. The interpretation “civilian” or “Taliban” might lead to a decision to bomb or not to bomb. Until the end of February 2009, the gathering of this highly confidential intelligence was in the hands of the Dutch military platoon 101 RPV (Remote Piloted Vehicle).

    However, the “Israeli experience” is not far away, as is illustrated by Project Lintel. When all available specialised platoons had extended their maximum period of deployment in Uruzgan, the Dutch mission turned to the Israeli company Aeronautics to hire replacement forces. The company provided four of their Aerostar UAVs, and – because the Israeli government does not approve of its citizens serving in Afghanistan – Aeronautics contracted the personnel to operate the machines through the British firm Qinetiq.

    When questions were raised in the Dutch Parliament, the issue was the hiring of private forces for confidential intelligence operations; it was not the hiring of – and cooperation with – Israeli forces.

    In a previous discussion about using contractors in Afghanistan, the Minister of Defence had maintained that private forces were not allowed to carry out “military core tasks” such as using weapons, strategic planning or intelligence collection. Asked to elaborate he said: “I wouldn’t dream about privatising our intelligence capacity; that would be a contradiction in terms.” However, three months later, the Ministry of Defence took the position that hiring Aeronautics for drone operations should not be regarded as an example of privatising the intelligence capacity. Fred van Staden, professor international relations at the University of Leiden and vice-chair of the Advice Council for International Affairs commission which advised the government on privatising warfare in 2009, is of a different opinion: “We are talking reconnaissance, intelligence gathering and goal exploration. This belongs to the core tasks of the military, no doubt about it.” And core tasks, according to the Minister, are not to be outsourced to contractors.

    Answering Parliamentary questions, the State Secretary of Defence explained that Aeronautics was the only candidate on the market able to supply tactical surveillance for practical use on the battleground as well as intelligence for strategic assessments of the future at the operational level on a short term basis. However, the industry magazine Flight International has an additional and relatively simple explanation for Aeronautics as the most likely candidate. The company set up shop in Afghanistan to provide services to the military missions. As Qinetiq’s manager for unmanned systems managed services David Tilly put it after the Dutch contract came to an end: “the Aeronautics/Qinetiq team is seeking another operator in Afghanistan to use the Project Lintel equipment, either as a capability enhancement or gap-filling system.”

    The Dutch Ministry budgeted the project at 25-50 million Euros, most of which would go towards renting the capacity, i.e. to Aeronautics. An appendix to the Ministerial letter contains the more specific financial details of the deal but is said to be “commercially confidential.” According to an Aeronautics press release the contract is “valued at approximately NIS 200 million” this is around 37 million Euros against the March 2009 exchange rates. Industry literature has more details on what you get for this money. “Four Aerostar vehicles were available across three variants: baseline and extended endurance for use in hot and high environmental conditions, both carrying a Controp electro-optical/infrared camera, and another equipped with an array of communication intelligence equipment.”

    The case of the Dutch army hiring Aeronautics marks a shift in the privatization of military tasks. Project Lintel may have been portrayed as an exception for the Netherlands; for other armed forces private contracting is ‘business as usual’. The recurring need for military equipment or personnel, and even for vital information gathering operations, may invoke the hiring of private contractors. Aeronautics shows it understands the market by setting up an office in Afghanistan and waiting for clients to hire its equipment.


    From military to civilian use

    Just as in the UK and the US, in the Netherlands the so-called civil use of UAVs is on the rise.

    As early as 2004, the chief-commissioner of the Amsterdam Police showed his interest in the opportunities to use mini UAVs in police work by attending a demonstration of the Bird Eye, the then most recent UAV model developed by Malat, part of the Israel Aerospace Industries. “The mission included the monitoring of rail tracks in the vicinity of the Amsterdam central train station, mobile vehicle tracking, crowd control, waterway monitoring, and other missions performed to the complete satisfaction of the Amsterdam police.”105 Condor UAV in Haarlem signed a contract to become IAI’s distributor for the Netherlands and several other European countries, but the company seems to have ceased to exist after 2005, although it is not filed as such in the Dutch bankruptcy register.

    In 2006, the government approved the purchase of a Short Range Tactical UAV and a mini-UAV specifically for civil-military use. Such military surveillance always takes place at the request of civil authorities and is regulated in the “samenwerkingsverband Intensivering Civiel-Militaire Samenwerking” (ICMS, in English: Alliance for Intensification of Civil-Military Cooperation).

    The following examples illustrate the rise in non-military use of drones, which could be traced back to concepts and experience originating from Israel. Local authorities in Noord Brabant asked Defence for UAV surveillance of a village called Veen (2.445 inhabitants) to monitor potential vandalism on New Year’s Eve 2009. And drones applied with heat-detecting cameras assisted with localising the multiple flare-ups in widespread dune fires in the spring of 2010.

    In February 2010, the Amsterdam police used an AirRobot in a coordinated eviction operation. The drone, a flying camera, monitored the roof and the back side of the houses to warn the police against unexpected resistance from the occupants. The UAV is the main product of AirRobotUK, a company advertising itself as “The UK Centre for Homeland Security” – in fact part of a German-American consortium.

    And, last but not least, the Dutch Police Force has deployed a lightweight unmanned helicopter, the SUAVE 7, in their battle against the illegal growth of cannabis since 2009. One of the most intriguing items of this aerial observation tool, the producer’s website claims, is the “cannabis sniffer”, a sensor used for the intake of air samples, to instantly recognise particles indicating the presence of cannabis. This specific drone is developed by the Dutch police; the spin-off company is called Cannachopper.

    The development in the Netherlands should of course be understood in a more universal context. Most companies with a new technological product for sale start with offering off-the-shelf solutions, while some also have development options. Within a few years the components have become much cheaper and the technology is more widely available. Local solutions are sought, as was the case in the Netherlands, and it is difficult to establish how much these local alternatives are based on technology in fact originating from Israel. An important platform for exchanging knowledge and technology is provided by European research platforms. It is here that Gordon Neve’s concept of the “Israeli experience”, discussed earlier in this report, comes to life. In various EU Framework Programmes UAVs are promoted to play a role in (automated) border control and in regaining control over security in emergency scenarios. Statewatch listed the European research networks that involve work on drones; each of them was awarded between 4 and 20 million Euros for specific research projects. Statewatch concluded that it is evident that this research is exclusively appliance-oriented and directed by (major) private military contractors. Police organisations play no role. The number of leading companies is small and the participating research and development departments are located in Israel, France and Italy, while 45 per cent of all projects are coordinated by French companies. The Statewatch research shows that five out of nine programmes include companies and institutes from Israel (see Table at the end of this chapter). It also shows that in projects until 2005/2006 the Dutch Nationaal Lucht- en Ruimtevaart Laboratorium was the main player in this field from the Netherlands. (NLR has recently signed an official cooperation agreement with TNO, in November 2009). This rather general information does not allow any further conclusions on the amount of cooperation between the Israeli companies and the Dutch partners in the various programmes. This would require more specific investigations into the set-up of each programme, the exact budget per country or per partner and the organisation of responsibilities amongst the partners. (A more detailed discussion of the EU research programmes can be found in Chapter IV of this report). It could also be of interest to find out if the Dutch authorities have initiated research programmes into the civil use of drones in the Netherlands, and subsequently, to investigate the Israeli input in such programmes. A strong indication for a leading role of the Israeli industry in promoting the civil use of UAVs is the urgent plea for a breakthrough held by the representative of Israel Aerospace Industry, the coordinator of the international thematic network UAVNET. In 2006, after the five-year EU network programme came to an end, Mark Okrent said: “In the past Europe invested ~ €15 million, under the FP5 program, in UAVNET, USICO, CAPECON and HELIPLAT … and about €5 million for IFATS in FP6. But, Europe does not have any strategic initiative for further developments for civil AAVs. [Automated or Autonomous Air Vehicles]” Israel Aerospace Industries also took the lead in the FP5EU research project called “Civil UAV application and economic effectiveness of potential configuration solutions” (CAPECON) which ran from 2002-2005. In a paper presented in 2007, Polish professor Zdobyslaw explained how European research money is used to develop new systems. The K70 Mini UAV was initiated by the Israeli company IAI and then developed within CAPECON project with the participation of Warsaw University of Technology. This drone inspired the Polish to develop the PW-141 as a national project financially supported by Ministry of Science and Higher Education. It was to be an affordable and reliably UAV system for long endurance border surveillance and monitoring.

    Most recently the IAI is involved in the OPARUS program, Open Architecture for UAV-based Surveillance System, an 18-month FP7 research programme that started in September 2010. The Netherlands does not take part in this project.

    The process to push civil use of UAVs has certainly gained speed since Okrent’s plea. Europe’s agency for combating undocumented migration, Frontex, has researched the possibility of introducing drones in enhancing border surveillance extensively in 2010. The agency coordinates sea patrol, reconnaissance flights, naval and land operations, and ropes in experts to identify the country of origin of detained irregular migrants. Founded in 2004, Frontex has a leading influence in the development of an integrated European Surveillance System (EUROSUR) and has been a key voice in the European Security Research and Innovation Forum (ESRIF) that ran between 2007 and 2009. The Forum brought together individuals and groups from the research community, the private business security sector, and European institutions. It represented all stakeholders affected by security technology; the participants in the FP7 research programme are amongst them. As of 1 November 2010, a new EU provision (No: 2010/0039) will now allow Frontex the option of acquiring equipment directly, and this could be understood as an important step in the militarisation of border surveillance and migration control. The new regulation, according to the news agency IPS that has access to the document, “gives Frontex the capacity to collect and process personal data of suspects for involvement in illicit border activities, acquire equipment for border surveillance, integrate common core curricula in the training of national border guards and to develop and operate a system for exchanging classified information. The regulation envisages an ‘increasing role in research and development for the control and surveillance of external borders,“which would make Frontex a key player between the European institutional apparatus and the emerging European homeland security industry.”

    One could say that the promotion of the “Israeli experience” in the European context has succeeded, while it is most probable that Frontex will start acquiring UAVs for border controls.



    Project (Programme) Grant sum, EUR [duration] Participants/Project coordination


    BSUAV (PASR) 5.0 million [2004-2006] Eurosense (BE), Sener (ES), Dassault Aviation, Flying Robots, Thales (F), Alenia (IT), NLR (NL), Saab (SE), SETCCE (SI), Rolls-Royce (UK)


    CAPECON (FP 5) 5.1 million [2002-2005] Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt, Eurocopter (D), Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial (ES), EADS Systems Services & Telecom, Eurocopter, ONERA (F), Tadiran Electronic Systems, Tadiran Spectralink Ltd.,Technion – Israel Institute of Technology (IL), Agusta, Carlo Gavazzi Space, Centro Italiano Ricerche Aerospaziali, Politecnico di Torino, Universita degli Studi di Bologna, Universita degli Studi di Lecce, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II (IT), Stichting Nationaal Lucht en Ruimtevaart Laboratorium (NL), Politechnika Warszawska (PL), Swedish Space Corp. (SE)


    IFATS (FP 6) 5.5 million [2004-2007] Deutsches Zentrum für Luft und Raumfahrt (D), Direction des Services de la Navigation Aérienne, EADS Defence and Security, Erdyn consultants, ONERA, Thales Communications (F), University of Patras (GR), Israel Aircraft Industries, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology (IL), Alenia Aeronautica, Centro Ricerche Aerospaziali (IT)


    INOUI (FP 6) 4.3 Million [2007-2009] DFS, Rheinmetall Defence Electronics (D), Boeing Europe (ES), INNAXIS, Isdefe (ES), ONERA (F)


    TALOS (FP 7) 19.9 million [2008-2012] Sonaca (BE), Smartdust Solutions (EE), TTI Norte (ES), ONERA (F), Valtion Teknillinen Tutkimuskeskus (FI), Hellenic Aerospace Industry (GR), Israel Aircraft Industries (IL), Instytut Technik Telekomunika- cyjnych i Iinformaycznych, Politechnika Warzawska, Telekomunikacja, Przemyslowy Instytut Automatyki iPomiarow (PL), European Business Innovation & Research Center (RO), Aselsan Elektronik Sanayi Ve Ticaret, STM Savunma Teknolojileri Muhendislik (TK)


    UAVNET (FP 5) No information [2001-2005] Sonaca (BE), Airobotics, DLR (D), EADS, ONERA, Snecma (F), Ae- Systems (GB), Israel Aircraft Industries (IL), Alenia, CIRA, Politecnico Torino (IT), NLR (NL), Politechnika Warsaw (PL), Space Corp. (SE)


    USICO (FP 5) 4.6 million [2002-2004] Airobotics GmbH, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft-und Raumfahrt (D), EADS Systems Services & Telecom, ONERA (F), Israel Aircraft Industries (IL), Marconi Mobile, Università Degli Studi di Napoli Federico II (IT), Stichting Nationaal Lucht en Ruimtevaart Laboratorium (NL), Foersvarshoegskolan, Swedish Space Corp. (SE)


    WIMAA (FP 7) 4.0 million [2008-2011] Commission of the European Communities, DG Joint Research Centre, Eurosense Belfotop (BE), Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung (D), Satcom1 (DK), Aerovison Vehiculos Aereos, Sener Ingenieria y Sistemas (ES), Dassault Aviation, Thales Systèmes Aeroportes, Thales Communications (F), Galileo Avionica (IT), Universita Malta (MT), Instytut Techniczny Wojsk Lotniczych (PL), Totalforsvarets Forskningsinstitut (SE), Zavod za Varnostne Technologije Informacijske Druzbe (SL)


    ΜDRONES (FP 6) 3.4 million [2007-2009] CEA-List, Thales Security Systems(F), AirRobot, University of Tübingen (D), Lysippos (GR)