Evidence is mounting that the US military drone industry may be slipping to international competitors, as Defense News reported today that Germany plans to lease advanced military drones from Israel.
German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen announced Tuesday in a public statement that the Bundeswehr would rent the drone Heron TP, manufactured by the Israeli company IAI, to protect German soldiers in deployments overseas. The rental agreement will remain in place until 2025, when Europe expects to introduce a new European combat drone built by collaboration with Germany, France, Italy and Spain.
Sources say that a major reason for the Heron TP’s selection was the Israeli company’s willingness to give Germany access to the drone technology; and its fast availability in comparison to the US model Predator.
The selection of the Heron over the Predator signals a departure in Europe: the UK, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain use US drones produced by General Atomics. The news follows reports earlier this year that IAI was pitching the Heron to Australia’s government. Reports from the Brazil and other Latin American countries have formed partnerships with Saab to provide drone technology. South Korea announced on Sunday that they are investing heavily in developing surveillance drones built of Korean components.
U.S. companies [are] losing significant ground to international competitors. Despite the fact that the U.S. is home to 86 drone companies (more than double that of any other country), Israeli companies are currently dominating the global market for UAV technology… The U.S. government, meanwhile, continues to heavily regulate the sale of weapons to foreign buyers, especially those considered enemies or otherwise untrustworthy.
As researchers at The Teal Group estimate that over 70% of the multi-billion dollar drone industry is related to military applications, a trend away from US manufactured drones is troubling news.