In the aftermath of the Six Day War, then French President Charles de Gaulle (for whom the main Paris airport is named) sided with the Arab countries that attacked the victorious Jewish state and issued a boycott on Israeli weapons sales that has lasted 42 years. In a stunning reversal, reported in today’s Ha’aretz, last week the French Defense Ministry’s placed an historic order for the Heron TP, or Eitan unmanned drone, also representing the first time Israel has sold this cutting-edge reconnaissance system to any foreign country. The drone has been in service in the Israeli Air Force for the past year-and-a-half. Israel is considered among the world leaders in the design and manufacture of unmanned drones. According to reporter, Anshel Pfeffer,
The Eitan is the largest and most sophisticated drone made in Israel. It is assembled by Israel Aerospace Industries, and went into operational service in the Israeli Air Force a year and a half ago. The Eitan has a wingspan of 26 meters – similar to that of a Boeing 737. It is capable of carrying out reconnaissance and intelligence missions in an altitude of up to 40,000 feet, and can remain airborne 36 hours. Eitan’s large size allows it to carry a variety of equipment such as radars, sensors and camera, and, theoretically, missiles.
The Israel Areospace Industries, the manufacturer has declined to comment on the deal, “but a senior security industry official said on the weekend that ‘this is a truly and historically coming full circle. The French embargo and de Gaulle’s refusal to provide us with a French jet that was developed with Israeli expertise gave the Israeli industry a push, and now it’s the one providing France with an Israeli plane.’ “