Switzerland’s future reconnaissance drone system, comprising six unarmed drones made by the Israeli company Elbit System Ltd., is in the testing phase. Swiss delegations visited a total of three times the area where the tests were conducted - an area that Switzerland does not recognize as the national territory of Israel.
Once he learned of it, the Minister of Defence intervened directly. The tests will henceforth take place in an unoccupied area.
The armament program approved by Parliament in 2015 saw the purchase of the Hermes 900 HFE from the Israeli company Elbit System Ltd. as a successor system to the outdated reconnaissance drone system 95. As a result, the contracts were signed and the implementation phase started.
Elbit informed the DDPS at the beginning of the evaluation that progress checks, training and acceptance would take place in Pik. At the time, it was not recognized that Pik (east of the Sea of Galilee) is in occupied territory, and that Swiss officials are not allowed to enter this area for activities related to the Israeli state or Israeli companies.
During an internal review of the processes in August 2017 by the DDPS, it was found that the presence of VBS staff on the occasion of the evaluation and flight tests at the airfield in Pik contradicts the Swiss position on the Middle East conflict: Switzerland recognizes Israel in accordance with the resolution 242 of the UN Security Council in the 1967 borders.
Swiss delegations were on site three times
Unaware of the requirements of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), three visits were made by Swiss delegations to Pik within the framework of the evaluation and progress reviews for ADS 15 to date in 2012, 2013 and 2015. The Swiss delegations spent days on site and then left the occupied area again.
Since the facts have been identified, no visits have been made by VBS personnel to Pik.
Chief VBS intervened immediately
This incident is a communication breakdown. Those who were informed about activities planned for Pik did not realize that Swiss officials were not allowed to be there and those who knew about the foreign policy restrictions were not informed about the planned activities.
After finding that the stays in Pik were not admissible, the Chief VBS informed the members of the Federal Council's Safety Committee about the visits to the Golan Heights. It was also decided that the experiments have to take place in another place.
Contract will be adjusted
In line with Swiss foreign policy, it is now necessary to switch to an airfield within Israel for upcoming activities such as flight tests, system acceptance or training from the originally planned Elbit base spade.
Armasuisse has now been commissioned to adapt the contract accordingly and is in close contact with Elbit.
About half of the financial expenditure for shifting the activities to another airfield is to be taken over by the DDPS and Elbit. The additional costs for the DDPS will be recovered within the approved credit.
Reconnaissance drone system 15
The Reconnaissance Drone System 15 (ADS 15) was approved by the Parliament for procurement in the 2015 Armament Program. It replaces the outdated reconnaissance system 95 (ADS 95).
The ADS 15 is used to monitor large spaces, and to search and track targets. With its sensors, this unmanned system can provide crucial daytime and nighttime information about the tactical situation, and protect critical infrastructure and forces.
Procurement will take place mainly in the period from 2016 to 2019. It includes six unarmed drones including ground components, simulator and logistics.