South Korea to buy Israeli drones used in attacks on Gaza and Lebanon

South Korea is eager to use the type of technology that destroyed this home in Gaza City during Israel’s November 2012 assault.

Anne Paq ActiveStills

South Korea is buying four drones manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

The Heron is one of the models Israel has used for surveillance and coordinating missile fire in its attacks on Gaza and Lebanon.

According to The Chosun Ilbo, South Korea will purchase four Heron-1 drones — called Shoval by the Israeli military — “to fly over the northwesternmost islands and the de facto maritime border to monitor North Korea.” The drones will cost around $28 million dollars.

The Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration opted for the Heron-1 “because it is much cheaper than other drone models,” an unnamed official has said.

In the 1990s, South Korea bought Searcher II and Harpy drones from IAI. In 2007, it decided to buy the Skylark-II model from Elbit Systems, another Israeli company.

Israeli drones are marketed as “battle proven” due to extensive Israeli use in attacks on the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Lebanon. The marketing strategies use the Israeli colonization of Palestine as a selling point. 

The origins of Israeli drone technology can be traced to Israel’s colonization of the Sinai Peninsula in 1967. Israel used the Heron model chosen by South Korea in the 2006 attack on Lebanon and the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead invasion of the Gaza Strip. In both cases, some Herons were modified to carry out strikes as well as surveillance.

In addition to South Korea, Israel has exported Heron models to Australia, Canada, France and Germany. Elbit, meanwhile, has played a major part in developing the Watchkeeper drone, which Britain recently deployed in Afghanistan. 

Israel has also exported drones to Brazil for use in the police invasion of the favelas, El Salvador for US-led counternarcotics operations, India for counterinsurgency against the Naxalites and Turkey for use against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

South Korea plans to use the Herons in its surveillance of coastal areas, which have been the site of tensions with North Korea for years.