Israeli defense company Aeronautics, owned by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Stolero Aeron, agreed to supply Greece with Orbiter 3 unmanned aerial systems in a government-to government contract.
The deal is part of the sale of Rafael’s Spike missiles to the country in a package worth EUR 370 million ($404 million).
The Orbiter 3, which has a maximum take off weight of 32 kilograms (71 pounds) and can fly for as long as six hours, is suitable for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The agreement will see “dozens” of the drone supplied to the Greek Ministry of Defense, the company said in a statement.
The initial announcement of the Spike deal made no mention of the Orbiter 3 and Israel’s Ministry of Defense did not elaborate. The announcement came before Yom HaShaoh, the annual Holocaust memorial day, and officials were not available to comment.
Aeronautics noted that as part of the contract, “Rafael will provide an advanced solution enabling significant operational advantage to the modern battlefield; while the Orbiter 3 systems detect, recognize and identify (DRI) the target, the Spike missiles, launched from the air, sea, or land can rapidly close the sensor-to-shooter loop, using the Fire Weaver; C4I system.”
In the last year Rafael has presented this kind of fire control capability, which it calls “the NLOS Mission Taskforce (NMT)… a comprehensive, end-to-end operational solution providing small, mobile combat units of 4X4 or armored vehicles with organic detection, attack, and fire control capabilities.”
The company did not comment on how the Orbiter 3 integrates with this system, beyond the statement about the UAV detecting targets while Spike can be launched to close the sensor-to-shooter loop.
“This collaboration demonstrates the technological synergy, and the close business integration, between the two companies,” said Aeronautics CEO Dan Slasky in the statement.
The UAV is runway-independent and can carry various types of payloads, as well as navigating in GPS-denied environments and in harsh weather conditions. In 2019 Aeronautics said it would supply the Orbiter 3 to an unnamed country in Asia and it also won a contract to another unnamed client in South America.
Aeronautics was founded in 1997 and acquired by Rafael and Stolero Aeron in 2019 with state-owned Rafael taking a fifty percent stake.
Greece and Israel have increasing partnerships on defense issues in recent years, including numerous joint drills. In 2020 Greece announced a leasing arrangement for large Heron drones with Israel’s IAI and Israel’s Elbit Systems was contracted to build a flight training facility in the country.
Seth J. Frantzman is the Israel correspondent for Defense News. He has covered conflict in the Mideast since 2010 for different publications. He has experience covering the international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, and he is a co-founder and executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.