חשיפה: המדינה שיוצאי התעשייה האווירית פיתחו עבורה טילים משוטטים היא סין.
Israel’s Shin Bet announced it had broken up a ring of Israeli aerospace engineers which had sold the country’s most advanced missile technology to China in return for “tens of millions” of dollars. There were at least 20 individuals involved in the illegal trade, many of whom had previously served in sensitive intelligence or weapons development roles in the IDF. Some of the ring worked for Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and others worked for similar Israeli companies which manufacture missiles. Haaretz says that the the technology involved loitering missiles, which are launched and track a target and wait for the optimal moment to attack.
Israeli media is under a military censorship order prohibiting the naming of China (most reports mention an “Asian nation”) as the nation which was the destination for the missiles. IAI may also not be mentioned as part of the censorship order. A well-informed security source provided this information to me.
IAI develops some of Israel’s most powerful and sensitive aerospace technology. Among its most advanced is the Harop:
Harop is a loitering munition (LM) system developed in Israel by the MBT missiles division of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). The unmanned combat aerial vehicle is also known as the Harpy-2 loitering munitions missile. The drone loiters over the battlefield and attacks the targets by self-destructing into them.
The Harop unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) has been developed from the Harpy unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), also developed by the IAI.
Such weaponry is at the cutting edge of current military development.
The conspirators used highly sophisticated means of avoiding detection including middle men who acted as intermediaries between Israel and the ultimate buyer, China. The buyer’s identity is censored by the Israeli military censor. They also employed complex financial transactions to conceal the funds that were transferred between the buyers and sellers. The report added that this was one of the most serious security breaches in recent Israeli history.
Nor is it an outlier. In recent years, another Israeli aerospace company seeking to sell attack drones to Azerbaijan actually used its own executives to demonstrate the weaponry by mounting an attack on an Armenian military outpost. Though the name of the company and country buying the drones was censored by Israel, I reported the full story here.
The current scandal is even more significant because China is a rival to the US, and the latter is extremely sensitive to Israeli arms sales to the Asian state, since some of its technology derives from US sources. In fact, Israel has knowingly sold advanced US military technology to China, raising the hackles of previous administrations. Further, Israeli relations with the Biden administration are already frosty, given Israel’s outright rejection of peace negotiations of compromise with Palestinians. This will certainly not help matters. I have sent queries to the Defense and State Departments asking for comment. DoD offered no comment.
The Israeli report on the case also notes the fear by the Shin Bet that the stolen technology could end up in the hands of a an “enemy state.” My source told me that Israel is most worried about it falling into the hands of Iran or North Korea, both of which have commercial and military ties to China. It recently announced a long-term deal with Iran involving sales of oil to China in exchange for commercial products and military technology. It’s possible Israeli counterintelligence officials are worried that China could sell the missiles themselves, or the technical specifications which would permit Iranian engineers to copy the Israeli system.
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Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.