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In a historic first Israel and the United Arab Emirates have collaborated to produce a new optionally manned surface vessel that was demonstrated at the NAVDEX 2023 exhibition, held in Abu Dhabi from 20 to 24 February 2023.

The new craft, which can operate completely autonomously, is the fruition of a co-operation agreement signed a year ago between EDGE subsidiary Abu Dhabi Ship Building (ADSB) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). ADSB designed the vessel, integrated its sensors and control systems and developed its operational concept, while IAI developed and supplied the vessel’s autonomous control system, integrating a range of dedicated sensors into the control unit.

According to a video produced by EDGE, the vessel appears to be called the 170 M-Detector, although its name was not mentioned in the accompanying IAI press release.

Military applications that could be addressed by the vessel include intelligence-gathering activities, tracking, observation, border and coastal surveillance, mine detection, anti-submarine warfare, and the deployment of vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial vehicles. The vessel is also suitable for civilian applications including oceanography, pollution detection and monitoring, oil and gas drilling, liquid material transportation, search and rescue, firefighting, and the early interception of maritime threats.

The unmanned maritime vessel jointly produced by ADSB and IAI and demonstrated at NAVDEX 2023 appears to be called the 170 M-Detector. (Photo: IAI)

“The unmanned maritime vessel we are exhibiting represents a historic moment: for the first time co-operation between Israel and the United Arab Emirates has resulted in an advanced technological product which includes autonomous systems and robotics,” said IAI President and CEO Boaz Levy in a company press release. “This joint realization is taking place in the UAE and incorporates the very best technological knowledge of EDGE and ADSB, specialists in maritime and commercial activities, together with Israel Aerospace Industries. Our advanced technology allows us to leverage business opportunities ensuring the growth of both companies for many customers around the world.”

David Massey, ADSB’s CEO, was quoted in the same release as saying, “ADSB is very pleased to have worked with its partners to develop a cost effective autonomous inshore and harbour protection mine countermeasure (MCM) vessel which minimises risks to personnel and can be put into production according to customer specifications significantly faster than larger vessels. Strengthening strategic partnerships to enhance our capabilities is a priority for both ADSB and EDGE for the wider benefit of our customers both locally and globally.”

Joint enterprises between Israeli and Emirati companies would have been politically impossible in the past, but the US-sponsored Abraham Accord Peace Agreement of 15 September 2020, in which the UAE became the third Arab country after Egypt and Jordan to normalise relations with Israel, now makes such collaborative projects possible.

Peter Felstead