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Israel and UAE to partner in creation of anti-drone AI system

The artificial intelligence system is set to include soft kill solutions such as electronic jamming, and hard kill capabilities such as guns, missiles and lasers
Israeli made Heron Drone is seen at a hangar in the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) compound (AFP/File photo)

An Israeli government-owned aerospace company has announced plans to partner with a United Arab Emirate's weapons manufacturer to develop an anti-drone system tailored to Abu Dhabi's needs, which likely includes defence against Yemen's Houthi group.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), in a statement on Thursday, announced plans to co-develop an advanced anti-drone system "to detect, identify, classify, and intercept a broad range of threats". 

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The group said the Counter-Unmanned Aircraft System (C-UAS) will include soft kill solutions such as electronic jamming and cyber takeovers, and hard kill capabilities such as guns, missiles, electromagnetics and lasers, as well as advanced command and control. 

"The C-UAS is fully autonomous requiring no to limited human" supervision, the group said. 

"A series of countermeasures, ranging from jamming to drone destruction, will be offered based on the level of threat and the customer's targeted operating environment," it continued in Thursday's statement. 

The Houthi movement, fighting the internationally recognised government in Yemen, has recently stepped up cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, the UAE's neighbour, and has threatened to strike Abu Dhabi. 

Both countries have taken part in a coalition against the rebel group since 2015, around the start of the war, with competing interests against the Houthi movement. 

'A stepping-stone' in normalisation

While the UAE announced in October that it had ended its military involvement in Yemen, rights groups and local politicians have accused the former Saudi partner of continuing a more "under the table" military strategy. 

The UAE already has an American-made advanced anti-missile interception system, known as the THAAD, that was acquired through an arms sale. 

Both the United States and the UK have been heavily criticised for continuing to provide weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as rights groups say the sales help to "prolong the war". 

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The UAE and Israel sealed a normalisation deal in August which has sparked a series of partnerships between the two countries. This will be its first weapons manufacturing partnership with Israel. 

Faisal al-Bannai, CEO and Managing Director of EDGE, the UAE partner company, said the project is set to strengthen Abu Dhabi's advanced technology portfolio and partnerships in the region, adding that the deal is "in line" with the recently brokered normalisation accords. 

Meanwhile, Boaz Levy, president and CEO of IAI, welcomed the project as "a stepping-stone for further business and strategic alliances between" the UAE and Israel. 

"We believe that this collaboration will help both companies through the transfer of knowledge and sharing of capabilities," Bannai said, adding that he looks forward to enhanced cooperation between the two countries for research and development in technological innovation. 

IAI said the project is set to have "wider ranging benefits for the [Middle East and North Africa] region and beyond".