India: Israel's single largest arms customer
Jerusalem: Buoyed by Indian defence procurement worth US$1.5billion, the Israeli defence industries have recorded all time high sales figures in 2006. "India was Israel's biggest customer with purchases reaching USD 1.5 billion," Maj Gen. Yossi Ben-Hanan, head of SIBAT, the Foreign Defense Assistance and Defense Export Department at the defence ministry told 'The Jerusalem Post'.
It included Israel's single largest sale to a foreign country made by the Israel Aircraft Industries in the sale of the Barak Naval anti-missile defense system, valued at some US$450 million, Ben-Hanan told the daily.
Unperturbed by the US entry into the Indian market, the defence official said it would not make a dent in Israeli defence sales to New Delhi. "America sells fighter jets, tanks and helicopters and we do not compete with them," Ben-Hanan said. On the contrary, he said, that it may even lead to an increase. "We can for example sell the necessary accompanying systems that they will need alongside the larger US platforms," Ben-Hanan noted.
Defence Industries sources said that "despite certain speculations the bilateral defence ties remain as strong as ever". Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi and Navy vice-chief Vice-Admiral Venkat Bharathan, among others, visited Israel in 2006 to re-affirm the strong ties. Joint R&D projects for more advanced radars, long endurance and high altitude UAVs, electronic warfare systems, third generation night fighting capabilities and such other areas are being explored for cooperation.
As per the sources, missiles and anti-missile defence systems however remain a priority area. Breaking an all time record, the Israeli defense ministry announced on December 31 that its sales reached just over 4.4 billion USDs in 2006, placing it among the top five exporters, just behind the United States and England.
Over three-quarters of the total sales were to foreign countries and the remaining was purchased by the Israel Defence Forces. "This is a great achievement. The world has put its faith in our industries through the deals it has signed with Israeli companies," Ben-Hanan said.
Israel also sold defence goods worth one billion dollars to the United States