Watching Out for Comrades in Need

Investment in Israeli-British technology will forever boost Romania’s military strength-and ties with two powerful allies.


Getty Images/BBC

A group of British Army soldiers stand adjacent to a “Watchkeeper” unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Ishan Pahwa , Staff Writer

   On Dec. 21, Romtechnia, the state-owned defense company of Romania that represents the nation’s Ministry of Defense signed an agreement with Israel’s Elbit Systems to purchase up to seven “Watchkeeper X” unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). 

   The deal is worth up to 1.89 billion Romanian Lei, equivalent to $410 million. Romanian defence industry organizations are intended to secure domestic manufacturing and servicing capacities for the UAVs, according to DefenseNews. 

     “Starting with the third Watchkeeper X system, the adjacent electrical and mechanical systems will be manufactured in Romania, by economic operators acting in the national defence industry,” stated the Romanian Defense Ministry. “The complex maintenance works throughout the life-cycle of the Watchkeeper X systems will be provided by domestic economic operators, in order to avoid the provision of these services by foreign companies during crisis situations or wartime.”

   The “Watchkeeper” family of UAVs are based upon the Israeli-built Elbit Hermes 450 drone, which was designed specifically for tactical long-endurance missions. “Watchkeeper” is constructed by U-TacS, a joint venture between Elbit Systems of Israel and the U.K. division of Thales, a French multinational company known for its work in the aerospace and defense sectors. 

   Romania is not solitary in their decision of purchasing drones from the west. Last October, the Polish Ministry of Defense signed a contract to lease a set of General Atomics MQ-9A “Reaper” drones from the United States. Additionally, the Lithuanian government has allocated funding towards the procurement of “Switchblade” drones from the U.S., which are small enough to fit in a backpack and are launched from a tube similar to that of a mortar. As for Romania, the deal with Elbit Systems is expected to last for five years.