Who is buying Israeli counter-drone systems in South Asia?

Israel Aerospace Industries has announced the sale of dozens of counter-UAV Drone Guard systems to an unnamed South Asian country.

The deal, announced in early July, was valued in the tens of millions of dollars. Israeli companies often don’t identify their customers, leaving observers to speculate about who acquired the system in South Asia.

According to a source at IAI familiar with the matter, the company can only go so far as to partly discuss the process involved in selling this technology to South or Southeast Asian countries. “Threats are diverse, and actually what we have to do is show that we have a solution which is very comprehensive and long range, and on that deal we provided extended-range capability, which is not a usual requirement,” the source said.

South Asia generally consists of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Israel doesn’t have diplomatic relations with Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, and has experienced intermittent positive relations with the Maldives.

IAI has previously done business with India: In 2017, the company won $2 billion worth of deals. In 2020, it discussed the Drone Guard system at the DefExpo conference in India, The Times of India reported. There has been online speculation that the system was sold to India, with local media platform ThePrint noting July 9 that the Indian Army “is in the process of procuring an unspecified number of anti-drone systems that will detect and jam the communication and navigation signals of a hostile unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or spoof it.” The article did not identify the company or companies providing the systems.

Days before announcing the Drone Guard deal, IAI reported a deal to upgrade Sri Lanka Air Force planes. Sri Lankan media and defense officials have also expressed concern about rising drone threats in recent years.

Given the lack of reported drone threats or incidents in Bhutan, a relatively small country, and in Nepal, the number of potential South Asian countries seeking advanced counter-UAS technology and which have relations with Israel are relatively few. It’s unlikely the customer is the Maldives because it is so isolated at sea and the threats it faces are more limited.

IAI has sold about 200 Drone Guard systems globally amid an increased interest by countries in defending against a plethora of emerging UAV threats. IAI says the multi-sensor, multilayered ELI-4030 Drone Guard system provides “the ability to detect, classify, identify and defeat drone attacks.”

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