Israel’s Ministry of Defense will deliver seventeen radar systems to Slovakia in a recent agreement. While it is worth €150 million, the heart of the deal is a broader context of Israel’s increasingly important role in central Europe and European defense in general. Across Europe there are many new deals with Israeli defense companies, some of which are directly with Israel’s government.
Recent agreements include a deal with Greece for a flight school for the Hellenic air force and a deal to sell unique military radios to Spain. The United Kingdom is looking at an Israeli command post and has acquired an Elbit Systems future naval simulator. In December 2019 Israel and the Czech Republic signed a $125 million deal for Elta radar systems to be supplied to Prague. Elta is a subsidiary of IAI. It makes the ELM-2084 radar, the one used on Israel’s successful Iron Dome system and on the David’s Sling air defense system and for Barak missiles.
The new deal in Slovakia appears to mean that Israeli radar will now have a major role across Czech and Slovakia. Israel’s Defense Minister benny Gantz, who will likely leave office after the March elections in Israel, praised the deal. “As I told the Slovak Minister of Defense during our discussion, Israel’s defense industry is at the forefront of global technology and development and produces excellent operational and military capabilities. This agreement reflects the excellent capabilities of Israel’s defense industry, as well as Israel’s strengthening relations and cooperation with NATO countries.”
For many of its first decades Israel relied on defense deals with western countries to maintain its military edge over Soviet-supplied enemy states. Today the situation is reversed. While Israel still buys big ticket items like the F-35 from the United States, it is a major innovator in several realms of warfare, from artificial intelligence to precision targeting, electro-optics, air defense, radar and defense systems for tanks. It also pioneers drones.
The Slovak government approved the recommendation made by the Slovak Ministry of Defense to procure the seventeen radar systems manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Israel says. “The agreement, led by the International Defense Cooperation Directorate (SIBAT), in the Israel Ministry of Defense, includes the transfer of technology and knowledge from Israel to Slovakia as well as industrial cooperation. The radar components will be manufactured in collaboration with defense industries in Slovakia, under the professional guidance of IAI and the Ministry of Defense,” Israel’s Ministry of Defense noted.
The radars will be interoperable with North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) defenses. A changing NATO and a changing series of threats, such as drone swarms, makes this a necessity. Israel held a recent integrated multi-layered air defense drill that saw the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow work together. This is the air defense of the future that Israel has put together into a system of systems. Other countries are increasingly interested. Israel has delivered two Iron Dome batteries to the U.S. Army in the past year, for instance.
“Under my leadership, the defense establishment will continue to promote technology procurement and development agreements, which are part of the security concept of the State of Israel and are particularly important for Israeli resilience at this time due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Israel’s Defense Minister, Benny Gantz. Israel’s SIBAT director Brig. Gen. Yair Kulas said this marked a significant step in strengthening defense relations between the two countries. “The choice is also indicative of the excellent capabilities of Israel’s defense industry, which provides advanced solutions to a vast range of ever-evolving threats. We thank our Slovakian partners and look forward to continuing exchanges of information and technology, further expanding our partnership.”
IAI was also pleased with the development. CEO of its ELTA subsidiary, Yoav Turgeman said that the MMR leverages state-of-the-art technologies to provide a dependable picture of the air and awareness of the situation at hand. “Approximately 130 MMRs have been delivered to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, and are already operational in the United States and Canada, in addition to Israel.”
As Israel’s air defense footprint grows globally Israel faces the prospect of being in a global leadership position in this technology. For instance, IAI recently conducted a drill in India with its MRSAM air defense system that India’s ground forces and local Indian companies are developing. From India to the United States and central Europe Israel’s technological innovations are now at the forefront of defense systems, creating an arc of influence for Israel’s defense systems.
Seth J. Frantzman is a Jerusalem-based journalist who holds a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis and a writing fellow at Middle East Forum. He is the author of After ISIS: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter at @sfrantzman. This article first appeared last year and is being republished due to reader interest.