European countries turn to Israeli companies for advanced defence systems despite US pressure

By Arie Egozi

Israeli defence companies anticipate that the US will try to persuade NATO members to purchase American-made defence systems instead of Israeli ones, which are already attracting significant attention due to the war in Ukraine. Only heavy pressure from Germany convinced the US to approve the sale of the Israel Arrow system against ballistic missiles for use by the German air force.

Unlike in the past, shopping lists prepared by some European countries include systems that, according to defence industry sources, are valued at “numbers never seen before.” Major General (ret.) Amos Yadlin said that he does not see a US policy about contracts between European countries and Israeli defence companies, but some problems may arise.

“When only Germany is allocating 100 billion Euros to improve its defences, it is highly likely that Washington will put pressure on some proposed contracts. It will not be an across-the-board effort to undermine business with Israeli companies, but some proposed deals with Israeli companies will face opposition from Washington.”

Yadlin is a senior fellow in the Belfer Centre. He served in the Israeli Defense Forces and, among other positions, was the head of the intelligence directorate.

Germany was the first to recognise the new danger posed by Russia, but other NATO countries have since joined and discussions are underway.

A former high-ranking official in one of Israel’s main defence companies said that American pressure should be anticipated when European countries rearm, but “at the end of the day, the European countries will buy what they think is the best solution”.

The former official added that unlike Israel, European countries do not receive Foreign Military Sales (FMS) funds from the US, giving them more freedom to buy non-American systems.

As the Russian invasion continues, more European countries understand that the Russian threat is very real and imminent. These countries have decided to increase their defence capabilities, not necessarily within the framework of NATO, and their first choice is Israel. Some are also interested in offensive capabilities.

Therefore, it is obvious that Germany is going to buy more very advanced weapons systems, but it is not alone in this new atmosphere. According to a very senior Israeli defence official, other countries are already in negotiations with the Israeli Ministry of Defence and defence industries about the fast evaluation of Israeli systems that can upgrade their capability to defend themselves from Russian missiles. While this seems the first priority, other systems are also on the hastily prepared shopping list.

The senior source added that Poland, Romania, and the Scandinavian countries are already talking with “the right people” in Israel about fast acquisitions. The very senior official, who talked on condition of anonymity, revealed that the first presentation of some Israeli-made systems has been scheduled for later this year.

According to sources within the Israeli defence industry, the top priority for European countries concerned about the real threat posed by Russia is the acquisition of air defence systems made by Rafael and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

The European clients will be shown Rafael’s Spyder and Iron Dome systems first. In 2021, the Czech Ministry of Defence signed a contract worth $520 million to purchase Rafael’s advanced air defence systems, including 4 Rafael Spyder batteries with MMR radars made by IAI. The contract includes Czech defence industries’ involvement.

The Spyder system uses Rafael’s Python and Derby air-to-air missiles and is designed to intercept a variety of airborne threats, including planes, helicopters and UAVs. The Spyder launcher is designed to fire Python-5 and Derby surface-to-air missiles. There are two versions of the Spyder : the short-range Spyder-SR and the medium-range Spyder -MR. Both systems are designed for quick reactions and can operate in any weather conditions.

The sources state that other European countries are also interested in these systems. The other Rafael system on European shopping lists is the combat-proven Iron Dome, which had a 97% success rate in intercepting rockets during the recent conflict with Hamas in Gaza.

IAI’s Barak MX system is also in high demand. Barak-MX is a modular air defence system designed to address missile and aircraft threats. It can operate on marine platforms and land and belongs to the Barak missile family. According to IAI, the Barak MX system can be easily integrated with any existing legacy or new sensors. The Barak MX Land Deployable system can also be easily integrated with any existing legacy or new sensors. All Barak MX Land Deployable components (BMC, Launchers with interceptors and Radars) can be operated from permanent infrastructure or can be truck-mounted and deployed to temporary operational sites.



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