Europe Seeks Israeli Defense Tech in Face of Looming Russian Threat

Finland, Germany and the Netherlands are all in line to purchase advanced Israeli defense systems.

By Yaakov Lappin | | Topics: Ukraine, Russia
An Israel Air Force "Arrow" anti-missile battery. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash 90
An Israel Air Force "Arrow" anti-missile battery. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash 90

As the Russia-Ukraine war enters its second year, European states are scrambling to modernize their armed forces and air defenses.

The result has been a spike in European defense spending, totaling some $345 billion for central and western European countries in 2022—30 percent higher than in 2013, according to data compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). That, in turn, has translated into growing acquisitions of Israeli defense technology.

In Ukraine itself, the government is reportedly planning to soon test an Israeli-made early warning system for civilians, alerting them to incoming aerial threats, according to an Axios report dated April 20.

The Israeli system is to connect Ukrainian military radars and air defense networks to the alert system, enabling more precise warnings in targeted areas, according to the report. The technology is similar to the Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command ״Color Red״ early warning system, which generates area-specific sirens, phone alerts and media messages, and has divided Israel into 250 alert zones. The more precise the alert, the less disruption it causes.

Bradley Bowman, senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Washington, DC-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies and assistant professor at the US Military Academy at West Point, noted that “this Israeli assistance will save Ukrainian lives, helping Kyiv more effectively respond to attacks by invading Russian forces, many of which employ Iranian drones.”

Meanwhile, on April 20, the Israeli government confirmed that the defense ministries of Israel and Germany, together with Israel Aerospace Industries, had launched discussions to accelerate the drafting of an agreement for the procurement of Israel’s Arrow 3 air defense system. The cost of the deal is estimated at around €3 billion ($3.3 billion).

The IAI-made Arrow 3 is operational in Israel as part of the country’s multi-tier air-defense program. It is capable of intercepting ballistic missiles above the Earth’s atmosphere. IAI is now developing the Arrow 4, which will operate both within and outside the atmosphere.

Berlin is keen on acquiring the system to protect itself against Russian missile threats.

According to the Israeli government, advanced negotiations were launched in late April with the aim of drafting a detailed agreement for the delivery of the Arrow 3 system to the German Defense Ministry. The Israeli negotiation party is being led by Moshe Patel, director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization.

Since the Arrow 3 is jointly developed and produced with the United States, the export process is contingent upon the approval of the US government.

“The launch of advanced negotiations for the delivery of the strategic Arrow 3 system to Germany is an important milestone, which further strengthens the ties between our countries. We look forward to a fruitful negotiation process in the weeks ahead of us,” said Patel.

Meanwhile, on April 6, the Finnish Defense Ministry informed its Israeli counterpart of its decision to purchase the Israeli-made David’s Sling air defense system—marking its first international sale.

David’s Sling, produced by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, is designed to intercept advanced aerial threats, including ballistic missiles, aircrafts, unmanned aerial vehicles and cruise missiles.

The deal, valued at some €316 million ($351 million), is the result of a years-long competitive tender and includes interceptors, launchers and radars, which will be connected to Finnish command and control systems.

Rafael worked alongside IAI subsidiary Elta, which developed the Multi‐Mission Radar, and Elbit Systems, which developed the Israeli command and control system—representing important collaboration between Israeli defense companies, despite the commercial competition between them in other areas.

“The Finnish government’s decision to acquire the David’s Sling system reflects the strong defense ties between our countries, as well as the cutting edge capabilities of Israel’s defense industries,” said Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on April 6. “I am confident that the cooperation between our countries will further enhance our readiness to respond to regional and global threats.”

IDF Maj. Gen. (res.) Eyal Zamir, director‐general of the Israeli Defense Ministry, described the acquisition as “a vote of confidence in the Israeli defense establishment and a quantum leap in the defense collaboration between Finland and Israel.”

David’s Sling has been operational in Israel since 2017, and is a core part of the Israeli multi-tier air defense system.

According to Finnish Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Juha‐Pekka Keranen, David’s Sling “will significantly strengthen the capability of Finland’s air defense. Together with the commissioning of the F‐35 and the already fielded ground‐based air defense systems in service, the air defense of Finland will be very substantial on the European scale.”

The Finnish version of the system will be manufactured and integrated as a collaboration between Israeli, American and Finnish contractors, led by Rafael and American defense company Raytheon.

As is the case with other European countries, the Netherlands feels a need to protect itself against growing threats posed by Russia.

The move comes amid an expansive overhaul of the country’s military strategy spurred in part by the ongoing war in Ukraine and the growing threat posed by Russia.

As such, it has decided to purchase Elbit’s Precise and Universal Launch System (PULS) for the Dutch Army. While Elbit has not confirmed the sale, it did state in March that it had signed a $133 million contract to supply the PULS rocket system to a European NATO client.

Elbit’s PULS beat out the US-made HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) for the contract.

PULS can fire Elbit-made surface-to-surface guided rockets and missiles at a variety of ranges.

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