IAI: Heron Sale to Brazil a ‘Breakthrough’
BY KATE BRANNEN — Brazil’s decision to buy more unmanned aerial vehicles from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is a breakthrough for the company, said Yair Shamir, chairman of IAI’s board.
On May 14, Israel and Brazil signed a contract with IAI, said José Luiz Boanova Filho of Brazil’s Federal Police. This contract is to provide Heron UAV platforms quickly to start training, he said. The first two platforms will be used along the tribal border between Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.
By 2014, Brazil aims to have four bases with at least one system of three aircraft each, said Filho. The purchase could total more than $350 million.
The sale signifies a breakthrough for IAI, said Shamir. It is a validation that IAI is a leader in the UAV market, particularly because Brazil undertook such a thorough evaluation and selection process, he said.
In November 2007, the Federal Police created a working group to study the global UAV market. The group found that “the most important countries producing UAVs were the United States and Israel,” said Filho.
While Israel jumped at the opportunity, the United States did not, perhaps over the issue of technology transference, said Filho.
“We insisted that the contract should include offset and transference of technology,” said Filho. “I don’t know if that’s something that maybe at that time,” was desired by the United States, he added.
Brazil presented its plans to the American and Israeli embassies in March 2008. Filho said Brazilian officials met with representatives from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, as well. Brazil requested to visit the key organizations in the United States that are involved in UAVs. These included factories, the Federal Aviation Administration and Fort Huachuca in Arizona. The United States never responded, either favorably or unfavorably, said Filho.
On the other hand, within 30 days, the Israeli embassy brought representatives from the three main Israeli companies to Brazil. Things moved quickly after that, said Filho, with Brazilian representatives soon traveling to Israel to visit factories there.
Eventually IAI was selected and formed a joint venture with a Brazilian company to open a Brazilian factory.
The UAVs will perform border control and drug trafficking missions. They are also intended to help with security for the FIFA World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympic games in Rio di Janeiro. Until then, the UAVs will also be used in monitoring the Amazon rainforest for devastation. The radar cannot yet penetrate foliage, but Filho said that capability could be developed in less than a year.
Brazil has leased one Heron UAV for training and it’s already flying in the country, said Filho. The first platform on contract will be delivered at the beginning of October, he added.