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10:53 AM, November 19, 2018
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MQ-9B UAV (Image: General Atomics)

General Atomics beat Israel Aerospace Industries in two huge deals worth an approximate $1.2 billion in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) sales to Australia and Belgium.

The Australian Government selected General Atomics Reaper UAVs to provide the Armed Remotely Piloted Aircraft System under Project Air 7003 for its defence forces for an approximate $1 billion. Belgium selected MQ-9 UAVs for an approximate $230 million. These contracts which last for at least 10 years include accompanying services.

"The decisions made in Australia and Belgium are unpleasant for IAI, to say the least. Besides the large amounts of money in these deals, which IAI always needs, it is a foothold for future deals in the same countries, because a country that buys UAVs from a certain company will probably later buy more services, extensions, upgrades, or completely other products from it with an interface with the UAV systems," Globes reported quoting unnamed defense source as saying Sunday.

"IAI went into these proceedings in both countries as an underdog, especially in Australia, where the authorities prefer General Atomics and didn't want to hold a competitive proceeding at all. IAI battled in this matter just to put a price bid on the table that could compete with that of General Atomics," the source stated.

Defense sources said late last week that despite IAI's efforts, in every proceeding held in recent years, the Australian Ministry of Defense preferred UAVs offered by the US manufacturer, while rejecting IAI's request for holding a competitive proceeding.

Up until two years ago, IAI leased Heron UAVs to Australia, which operated them, among other things in its share of the fighting in Afghanistan.

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