UAE, Israel to develop unmanned military, commercial vessels

Emirati and Israeli state-owned weapons makers sign a deal to jointly design vessels on the final day of the Dubai Airshow.

The UAE was the first among other Arab states that normalised ties with Israel last year [File: Nir Elias/AP Photo]

Emirati and Israeli state-owned weapons makers have signed a strategic agreement in Dubai to jointly design unmanned vessels capable of carrying out anti-submarine warfare.

United Arab Emirates defence conglomerate EDGE and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced the partnership on the final day of the biennial Dubai Airshow on Thursday.

In a joint statement, the firms said they would design the “170 M” advanced modular unmanned service vessels that would be usable for both military and commercial purposes.

Aerospace and defence company IAI in March said it would jointly develop an advanced drone defence system with EDGE.

The deal comes after the UAE and Israel last year established diplomatic ties under a deal brokered by former US President Donald Trump’s administration. The US later agreed to sell F-35 warplanes to Abu Dhabi.

Commenting on Thursday’s deal, EDGE CEO Faisal Al Bannai said: “In line with the Abraham Accords and the UAE’s newly-established cooperation with Israel, it is a defining moment for us to join forces with IAI. As EDGE invests extensively in autonomous capabilities, our co-development of a Counter-UAS will help strengthen our advanced technology portfolio.”

IAI’s President Boaz Levy said the agreement serves as a “stepping-stone for further business and strategic alliances between our countries”.

The UAE was the first among other Arab states that normalised ties with Israel last year – neighbouring Bahrain did so at the same time.

Palestinians view the normalisation agreements as weakening a longstanding pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.

The Emirati-Israeli unmanned vessels would be able to operate semi and fully autonomously and carry out missions including submarine detection and anti-submarine warfare.

“These developments will open many doors for us in local and global markets, military and commercial alike,” Bannai said in a statement.

It would also be usable for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, mine detection and sweeping, and as a deployment platform for certain types of aircraft.

Commercially, it would be able to be customised for oil and gas exploration among several other capabilities.

Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB) will design the platform and integrate the control systems and payload, while IAI will develop the autonomous control system and integrate payloads into it.

The statement did not say how much capital had been committed to the project, or when it would enter production.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies