In June, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz claimed that Tel Aviv has been collaborating with Arab states to establish a US-backed “Middle East Air Defense Alliance” to counter Iran. In response, Tehran called Israel the “primary cause” of regional instability and criticized Arab neighbours for partnering with Israel.
Reuters reports that Israel has sold an advanced piece of air defense equipment to the United Arab Emirates, citing two persons with knowledge of the situation.
SPYDER (“Surface-to-air Python and Derby”), the short-to-medium range air defense system produced by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, was reportedly sold by Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi sometime during the summer. The system may be outfitted with Python-5 and Derby air defense missiles with ranges of 20 and 50 km, respectively. The system has an aircraft detection range of 70 to 110 km. The systems are intended to intercept and destroy hostile drones, cruise missiles, aeroplanes, and low-flying projectiles.
The SPYDER (Surface-to-air PYthon and DERby), built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, was showcased at IDEX 2021 in Dubai late last year.
The quantity of SPYDERs that were supplied has not been disclosed, and it is unknown if the Emiratis have received the weaponry. Nonetheless, a source said that Tel Aviv had also supplied the Gulf sheikhdom unspecified “hardware capable of defending against drone assaults.”
In January and February, Yemen’s Houthi militia launched a series of missile and drone attacks on the United Arab Emirates in retaliation for Abu Dhabi’s sustained participation in coalition operations in the war-torn southern Arabian country. The UAE’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and Patriot missile defense systems were incapable of stopping Houthi drones and rockets. It was reported that some missiles and drones flew at low altitudes to avoid detection by the UAE’s THAAD and Patriot interceptors, which were manufactured in the United States. Both these systems were purchased by the UAE from the United States.
Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Pentagon organized a secret meeting in Egypt in March to discuss ways for regional powers to improve air defesce cooperation against Iran. The meeting was reportedly attended by then-US Central Command chief Frank McKenzie and senior military commanders from Israel and Arab countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz disclosed in June that Israel has been collaborating with Arab states on forming a US-backed “Middle East Air Defense Alliance” in response to escalating fears of Iranian “aggression.” He did not specify any specific country that collaborated with Israel.
A week after Gantz’s announcement, Israel’s Channel 12 reported that Tel Aviv planned to ask the Biden administration for approval on the sale of Iron Beam laser-based air defense systems to the Gulf States, including the UAE and possibly Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that Israel has no formal relations with either of these countries.
According to an unsourced Hebrew-language report cited by the Times of Israel, the delivery of the system to the Gulf countries would aid the US-led effort to strengthen air defense cooperation between Israel and a loose regional coalition that includes Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
Ram Ben-Barak, chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Israeli Knesset, said on Israeli radio on September 20 that there was a wide collaboration with the UAE but refused to elaborate. He was responding to a question about whether Israel was providing the UAE with air defense systems.
Tel Aviv routinely accuses the Islamic Republic of supplying its regional allies, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, with modern missiles and drones. In January, the Iranian deputy chief of army coordination affairs Habibollah Sayyari confirmed that Iran was interested in “sharing its advanced scientific and military technologies” with friendly nations and indicated that “regional stability and security will be based on mutual strength and interactions.”
Last year, the spokesperson for the Iranian armed forces, Abdolfazl Shekarchi, warned that Israeli efforts to create a defense alliance with Gulf states were “desperate” and that some “reactionary Arab regimes” collaborating with Tel Aviv would “collapse in the end.”
Israel has sold SPYDERs to Azerbaijan, the Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Georgia, India, Peru, Singapore, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
Spyder air defense system
The SPYDER air defense system was developed by a consortium of Israeli companies, Rafael and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI). Rafael says that SPYDER can protect broad regions against threats like drones, cruise missiles, assault aircraft, helicopters, and bombers, even at low altitudes.
The first version of the system, later designated SPYDER-SR (Short Range), was demonstrated in 2005. at the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget. Later, Rafael and IAI announced the developing of a new version of the complex under the designation SPYDER-MR (Medium Range). SPYDER-MR has retained a high degree of continuity with the SPYDER-SR complex but is equipped with new surveillance radar and increased ammunition for upgraded missiles with a longer flight range. Initially, the Python-4 rocket was used as part of the complex. Later the more advanced Python-5 with a dual-band thermal imaging seeker was integrated into the system.
The combat use of the SPYDER-SR complex took place in 2008, during the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict. August 9, 2008, At 10:20 a.m., the Georgian air defense system, using the Spyder-SR air defense system, shot down a Russian Su-24M front-line bomber from the 929th State Flight Test Center (Akhtubinsk airfield). It flew as part of a group of three bombers with the task of suppressing Georgian artillery in the area of the village of Shindisi (between Gori and Tskhinvali). After making the first call on the aircraft, two unsuccessful launches of Python-4 missiles were made, but a third missile hit it. The hit caused a fire, and the crew ejected, but the parachute dome of navigator Colonel Igor Rzhavitin was damaged by the wreckage of the aircraft, resulting in his death.