BEIRUT — Emirati defense conglomerate Edge plans to develop counter-drone systems with Israel Aerospace Industries, marking the first defense collaboration of its kind between the two countries.
Edge announced the new memorandum of understanding, signed by the two companies March 11, which will tailor their work for the Emirati market. The agreement calls for a fully autonomous counter-UAV system that requires no human intervention and is supported by 3D radar, communications intelligence technology and electro-optics integrated into a unified command-and-control system.
The planned system is to offer a series of countermeasures, ranging from soft kill solutions, such as spoofing and jamming, to hard kill capabilities, such as lasers and electromagnetic pulses, according to Edge’s statement.
Under the memo, Edge subsidiary SIGN4L and IAI are to combine capabilities to develop the system in response to specific customer needs. Further support will come from IAI’s partnership with Belgium Advanced Technology Systems, which has a technical and marketing presence in the region.
The SIGN4L and IAI team are closely cooperating to confirm the final subsystems and which partner will provide parts.
“Key parts of the systems have been tested, and the next phase is to confirm the final configurations and building blocks. Meanwhile, there is a road map of future product and capability expansion,” Waleid Al Mesmari, Edge’s vice president of program management for its EW and intelligence business, told Defense News.
He added that SIGN4L plans to produce a product with IAI this year.
The bilateral cooperation comes in the wake of the Abraham Accords signed Sept. 15 between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, highlighting a new era of diplomatic relations and potential defense agreements between the two countries.
“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,” Faisal Al Bannai, CEO and managing director of Edge, said in a statement.
During a U.S.-UAE business council meeting on Feb. 17, Al Bannai described air defense systems as a rich area for potential cooperation involving the industries of the U.S., the UAE and Israel.
“This MoU serves as a stepping-stone for further business and strategic alliances between our countries, and will enhance cooperation for R&D and technological innovation,” IAI President and CEO Boaz Levy said in a statement.
Asked whether a related system has already undergone testing in the UAE, Al Mesmari confirmed to Defense News that “various parts of the system were tested, and further subsystems will be added. The final system will pass through rigorous acceptance trials.”
“The region has specific needs when it comes to environment. Therefore, the system will perform better in hot, humid and dusty weather. Additionally, we will look to offer a comprehensive solution that caters for a wide range of capabilities to deal with various threats,” he added.
On future cooperation between Edge and IAI, the Emirati official said this is simply the first step to strengthen regional and international partnerships.
“This is a clear signal that Edge is open for true joint developments and also collaborating to offer joint solutions. In this solution and other solutions, we will partner with players that are looking to contribute with unique capabilities.”
Agnes Helou was a Middle East correspondent for Defense News. Her interests include missile defense, cybersecurity, the interoperability of weapons systems and strategic issues in the Middle East and Gulf region.