Top Stories

Israeli defense firm Rafael opens first office in United Arab Emirates

February 16, 2023

By Lee Ferran

The Israeli defense giant Rafael announced today it has opened a new office in the United Arab Emirates, in what the company called a “historic occasion.”

“We are encouraged by yet another concrete step in strengthening Rafael’s ties with the UAE,” Yoav Har-Even, Rafael President & CEO, said in a statement. “We can now say that we have built the bridge to the United Arab Emirates by this inaugural investment and are excited to continue to expand the relationships that have been cultivated thus far.”

The new office, the company said, will help Rafael “explore opportunities in the region, utilizing its culture of collaboration, excellence and innovation to create relationships with governments, customers and defense industry leaders.”

The announcement comes just days before the start of the IDEX defense expo in Abu Dhabi, expected to feature government representatives and defense firms from around the world. (Breaking Defense will have a reporting team on the ground during the conference next week.)

Rafael said it plans to use IDEX to show off “an array of defense solutions” including its Iron Beam high energy laser weapon, designed to take out incoming threats from drones to mortars and missiles. It will also preview the company’s focus on its “new space portfolio,” like its LITESAT electro-optical earth observation system “microsatellite.”

In a growing closeness once unthinkable for the historical rivals, Israel and some Gulf nations, especially the UAE, have made significant strides in defense cooperation ever since the Abraham Accords were signed in 2020. Breaking Defense reported in October that the UAE had deployed an Israeli Barack air defense system for the first time, and last month a UAE defense conglomerate announced an investment in an Israeli unmanned air traffic management system, to name a couple initiatives.

“The reality in the Gulf region has changed dramatically, and that is an understatement,” a senior Israeli defense analyst, who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive subject, told Breaking Defense last March. “What until some months ago looked like science fiction is now on the table.”

In its statement today, Rafael said this “new era” in relations with the UAE really began with the Dubai Air Show in 2021, and the company “has only continued building and deepening our ties based on a shared vision of staying at the cutting-edge and finding the most advanced solutions to the threats that [affect] the region."