CAST: Eksport Vooruzheniy
No. 6, Nov/Dec 2002

German-Israeli Armaments Cooperation

Christopher Steinmetz

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German-Israeli armaments cooperation can be traced back to 1955/56 when Germany exported two coastal patrol boats to Israel. Still, very little is known of the extent of this relationship. The few publicly available details usually surfaced in the aftermath of political scandals. The desire for confidentiality and secrecy seems to have been of paramount importance for both states, structuring the cooperation in this sector accordingly.

This article will try to shed some light on the hidden history of the German-Israeli armaments cooperation and to identify the dominant factors guiding political, military and industrial decision-making of both states. The author believes that this special bilateral relationship also reveals all facets of the German approach to armaments cooperation as an instrument of foreign and industrial policy.

Origins of cooperation: (Re)arming the national forces

First defence related contacts were made in 1954 during the negotiations on German reparations for the genocide committed by Germany under the national-socialist government. Defence-related talks were held in secret since both sides regarded the political climate as very unfavourable. The German government was eager to avoid any public debate on responsibility for the inhumane crimes and genocide committed under the previous regime. On the Israeli side, the government believed that their public would not tolerate any cooperation with the former oppressor. But soon a second common factor emerged, which was to shape the future bilateral relationship: (re)arming the national forces.

Germany, after the unconditional surrender, including a complete disarmament, strove to rebuild its dismantled defence industrial base and again field an army. Israel, without a defence industrial base of its own, felt that it needed arms imports from abroad to guarantee its survival in a hostile environment. However, afraid of public outcry - in Germany also the legal consequences for the export of armaments - every effort was made to keep the contacts secret and informal. As a result, the respective secret services, the Mossad and the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), became prime actors for conducting the arms business. This pattern of secrecy continued even after establishing diplomatic relations in 1965. (1)

Thus it came that German wharves were manufacturing patrol boats for Israel by 1955, even though Germany was still officially forbidden to rearm and produce military goods. In the 1960's and early 1970's German ships and submarines were manufactured on French and British wharves and German signatures were removed from weapons and components exported to Israel. (2)

In short, the armaments cooperation through quick and informal channels without public knowledge proved to be advantageous for both sides. Germany had a customer for its rebuilding defence industry. In addition, Israel became an important supplier and partner for the evaluation of Soviet weapon systems, since the Israel Defence Force (IDF) captured many of these systems during their three wars with the neighbouring states.

Israel profited from cooperation by having a reliable and quick source for spare parts and complete weapon systems – even in times of war, when other nations like the United States, Great Britain and France were more restrictive in supplying arms to Israel. Another advantage was the willingness of the German government to pay for these exports to Israel. (3)

Limits of quantitative assessments

Until now no German government has shown any interest to reveal the extent and importance of the armaments cooperation with Israel – a behaviour mirrored on the Israeli side. Most of the information surfaced through a series of political scandals between 1988 and 1994 dealing with the questionable procurement practice of Israeli technology by the German government and the shipment of military goods of the Nationale Volksarmee of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) to Israel. The attitude of the German government regarding the root of the scandals is best reflected the Ministry of Defence statement from 1991: "Since the beginning of cooperation with Israel it is continuous practice of all governments to structure and to formalise this cooperation the least public as possible". (4)

In spring 2002 the German public was again reminded of the very special relationship with Israel. During a new escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the IDF entering the Palestinian Areas of Autonomy the media presented information about a temporary halt on component deliveries to Israel, including important spare parts for the new tank Merkava 4.(5) Asked for a reason, the German government surprisingly did not justify the suspension with the conflict escalation or a strict application of the new political guidelines for armaments exports, which would prohibit the export to regions with human rights violations and violent conflict.(6) Instead, it claimed internal administrative factors as the primary cause for the suspension. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was eager to emphasise that there is no embargo against Israel: "I want to state clearly: Israel receives what it needs for the maintenance of its security, and it receives it then when it is needed".(7) This quickly ended any discussion on the compatibility of arms exports to a crisis region with German law.

While the Israeli side in general is reluctant to provide reliable information regarding their arms exports and production estimates for their defence industries, the German government has been offering a limited insight into the nature of business with Israel through the annual report on exported armaments, published since 1999. In addition written parliamentary inquiries on the volume and nature for armaments exports have produced some further numbers. Leaving aside a debate on the many deficits of the annual report and accepting the published figures, only one conclusion could reasonably be drawn: a relevant cooperation in the field of armaments doesn't exist. According to the government data, the value of granted licenses for armaments exports to Israel between the years 1990-2000 amounted to about 2,74 billion DM. While already not very high for a ten years period, the figures for the actual delivery of weapon systems (as classified by the German export control law – Kriegswaffenkontrollgesetz) to Israel for the same period provide for an even starker contrast: from the total listed value of 1,31 billion DM, about 92% (or 1,2 billion DM) were spend solely for the construction of the three submarines. (8)

The available quantitative data simply does not allow a real qualitative assessment of the German-Israeli armaments cooperation. A more rewarding venue is the analysis of specific examples for different aspects of armaments cooperation in areas like R&D, exchange of technical information and the export and re-export of weapon systems and components.

Rare export of large weapon systems

As the annual reports of the German government reveal, the export of large – and usually expensive – weapon systems to Israel is a rare exception. The 1990’s have seen only the export of used NVA materiel (dealt with further down) and the delivery of three Dolphin-class submarines to Israel between the years 1998 and 2000. Presently, the only pending export of a complete system is a procurement of 17 Grob 120 A light trainer aircraft trainers "Snonit" by Elbit Systems of Israel under private financing initiative issued by the Israeli Ministry of Defence.(9) Nevertheless, a brief analysis of the Dolphin-deal will help illustrate some core aspects of the bilateral armaments cooperation.

Israel began in 1982 to look for the replacement of the three Gal-submarines (type 540), which were produced between 1973-77 by Vickers Shipyard in United Kingdom according to a German design. In 1986 Israel identified the need for five new medium-sized submarines (1.500 tons displacement) with a greater reach (4.500 km) for a variety of purposes (Torpedo, Mines, Special Forces deployment, anti-ship rockets, reconnaissance tasks). As already for the Gal-submarines, the German Ingenieurskontor Lübeck was contracted by the Israeli government to develop the design.

From then on, the major unresolved issue was the payment modalities. Israel saw itself unwilling and unable to allocate domestic funds to the project, being always short on hard currency. Instead, Israel hoped that US Foreign Military Financing (FMF) money could be made available for this and was willing to scale down the request to two submarines. At first the US government stalled, insisting that FMF money has to be spend exclusively in the US – a position that was out of question for the German government and industry. After more intense Israeli lobbying, the US government agreed in 1989 on financing the larger share of the expected total cost with $600 million FMF on two conditions: Germany should cover the balance and the US wharf Litton Ingalls would be designated as the prime contractor.

Israel’s unexpected decision to use the available FMF funds for other purchases delayed the finalisation for another year. It was the second Gulf War, which saved the deal, which by then had become also increasingly important for the German naval industry since the German government had to postpone the planned development and procurement of new submarines due to the financial cost of unification. In January 1991 Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Prime Minister Shamir negotiated the details of the 1,2 billion DM German aid package to Israel as part of the "Gulf War Assistance". Of these, 880 million DM were allocated for the construction of two submarines, 165 million DM for the delivery of one Patriot air defence battery, the rest to be spend on some other supplies. The contract was signed in 1991 and immediately the German wharf Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) commenced with the production. (10)

The Israeli side pressured the German government to allow for the production of a third submarine under similar conditions. While at first categorically ruling out such a deal, the German government gave in under US and Israeli pressure. In February 1995 both sides signed the contract for a third submarine, but this time Germany only promised to contribute 220 million DM, while Israel would have to pay the rest.(11) In the end Germany paid for 85% of the estimated total costs. All three submarines were delivered between 1998 and 2000.

The illustrated difficulties in securing the financial side of the submarine sale provide a good explanation – aside from political sensitivities - why there weren't many large scale exports to Israel. Despite a growing output of the Israeli defence industry and a claimed export share of about 75% Israel is chronically short of hard currency to buy weapons abroad. Without the annual allocation of US FMF funds of about $2 billion, Israel is unable to purchase any modern large weapon systems.(12)

Even regarding "minor" purchases of subsystems, Israel has to resort either to US funds or to exchange-trade solutions. When it came to the selection of heavyweight torpedoes for the submarines, Israel at first wanted to buy US torpedoes Mk.48. When the US government declined, Israel chose the STN Atlas Elektronik Torpedo DM 2A3 export version Seahake. However, STN Atlas had to agree to let Lockheed Martin Tactical Systems market the Seahake variant via the US in order to for Israel to draw upon FMF funds for the estimated $65 million deal. (13)

Aside from the financial aspect the Dolphin export can also serve to illustrate two more aspects of the bilateral cooperation:

  • the transfer of equipment was never a one way street,
  • the exports to Israel carry political risks for the German government.

Despite the uneven distribution of the financial burden, Germany profited from this export in more than one way. As already mentioned, the German government was well aware in 1991 that they would have to delay the procurement of new Type U-212-class submarines to the German Navy. The Israeli contract helped to bridge the gap for the wharves, securing continuous cash flow and involving many German subcontractors. It also allowed the German engineers to test some technical solutions for the planned German submarine type. Parts of these Israeli improvements were also adapted for the German U-212-class and subsequently integrated, like the electronic warfare system Timnex 2 of Elbit Systems.(14) It can be assumed that a certain share of the Israeli costs for the third Dolphin was paid in kind.

On the other hand, the submarine deal also revealed a very problematic side of the bilateral armaments cooperation. A cooperation project with Israel almost always involves a certain permanent transfer of technology. Israeli involvement and financing in the design and development of the Dolphin-class provided Israel with certain legal claims to the design, including the blueprint. These it could try to sell to third nations, like for example Taiwan, which is presently looking for the know-how to produce eight submarines with a conventional engine. (15)

Additionally the German government apparently closed both eyes in regard to the technical modifications the Israeli engineers were demanding. As a result the Dolphin-class became the first Western submarine to feature two different torpedo tubes – six with the standard diameter of 533 mm sufficient for the Seahake and Sub-Harpoons, four with a diameter of 650 mm, which Russia uses for heavy torpedoes and cruise missiles. The latter could be used for the launching of nuclear missiles. Military observers have already reported various Israeli test-launches near Sri Lanka. If this proves to be true, Germany would have aided Israel in acquiring sea-based nuclear capabilities. (16)

From the exchange of technical information to R&D

A look at the more visible and direct category of armaments cooperation, the export of large weapon systems, has revealed its marginal importance. However, a different outcome can be expected for the cooperation in the area of exchange of technical information on (captured) war materiel. This aspect of cooperation began in 1967 with both sides signing a bilateral agreement and has resulted in the development of a wide range of new military technologies and weapon systems. Until the early 90's the dominant trend was the joint evaluation of Soviet war materiel captured by the IDF in the Six Days War of 1967, the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and the Lebanon War in 1982. It can be assumed that the Israeli deliveries to Germany were a compensation for the financial aid and transfer of spare parts and weapon systems from Germany and paid by the German side. As already mentioned above, both Mossad and BND became responsible for organising the transport and payments, leading to a highly secretive, "need-to-know" structure inside the German administration.(17)

The Soviet war materiel, among others the BMP-2 AIFVs and T-62 tanks, allowed the German defence industry to modify the designs and protection of their armoured vehicles and tanks and decide on the specific armaments (25 mm guns and 120 mm guns respectively). This not only gave the German Army a theoretical advantage on the Warsaw Pact troops but also formed the basis for the export success of the land systems such as the Leopard 1 and 2 tanks.

After the collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1990 Germany followed suit and provided Israel with Soviet weapon systems from the stock of the Nationale Volksarmee of the GDR.(18) Among the goods were MiG-29 fighter aircraft along with its radar and a variety of air-to-air-missiles, and "spare parts" for the T-72 tank. These helped the Israeli defence industry in their design of Merkava tanks, aircraft protection measures and air-to-air missiles. Israel’s defence industries not only had the chance to improve their passive defences against the fielded equipment of the Arab neighbour states but – like Germany – to open new markets, primarily in Eastern Europe, through offering modernisation of the Soviet/Russian weapon systems, like the MiG-21 Lancer upgrade to Romania.(19)

Again, both sides profited from the ensuing exchange of technical information. The technical analysis of the seeker technology and engine solution of the Soviet missile AA-11 (R-73 Vympel), resulted in the development of the Israeli Python-4 and German IRIS-T air-to-air missile now marketed for sales world-wide as a successor of the Sidewinder AIM-9.

The importance Germany did attach to the exchange of technical manifested itself in the political risks the government was willing to take in order to supply Israel with the NVA goods. Despite a missing approval of the German National Security Council (Bundessicherheitsrat) the BND was tasked with organising the shipment of the items with the help of the Mossad. This ended in a scandal in October 1991, when the German harbour police in Hamburg discovered a shipment of the NVA war materiel in containers declared as agricultural machines. (20)

Research and Development – a new basis for cooperation

Since the mid-90's the need for an evaluation and access to Soviet weapon systems has lost relevance. The future will see a more institutionalised R&D cooperation between Israel and Germany in a wider European context. Increasingly many R&D projects will also be strictly between companies.

While presently known bilateral R&D cooperation is limited to "civil" (dual-use) projects in areas of space technology and micro-electronics, direct military R&D collaboration will grow. On November 24th, 1998, both defence ministries have signed an agreement regarding the cooperation on research and technology. Subsequently both sides agreed in 2000 to create a joint research programme on protection from biological and chemical weapons. (21)

Since 1996 Israel participates in the European Framework Programme on R&D, which partially finances dual-use projects and is expected to be expanded to military research. A similar trend can be expected to develop within the NATO-framework after Israel has signed the mandatory security agreement.

But even more than the government co-ordinated research activities the direct collaboration can be expected to shape the future cooperation. In the 70's and 80's Israeli defence companies adapted new technologies from Germany, like reactive armour for tanks, the smoothbore gun and stabilising systems for the turrets. The other way around, German companies adapted electro-optronic warfare systems and gained insights in to the Israeli cargo-ammunition technology.

Components transfer dominates exports

This last field of bilateral armaments cooperation covers a wide spectrum of arms transfers. In general these transfers show similar peculiarities to the negotiations on the export of complete weapon systems – albeit on a smaller scale. Like most other states, both Germany and Israel increasingly opt for an enhancement of their systems through integration of modern components and technologies (i.e. electronics and information technology). But there are three other factors, which also need to be mentioned in order to explain the dominance of components transfer in the bilateral relations:

  • Israel regards the import of complete weapon system as weakening of its defence industrial base and thereby also of the national defence capabilities;
  • the import of complete weapon systems means spending of hard currency, which Israel is short of;
  • limiting the exports to the transfer of key components reduces the political risk for the German government to create a public debate on arms exports.

Still, this form of cooperation is not without problems for Germany. Israel is known to re-export those components to states for which German companies would not receive an export licence directly – China, Sri Lanka and Turkey, to only name a few. This means, that the German government is frequently caught in a bind. It has to carefully evaluate the risk of a refusal for an Israeli re-export or a strict monitoring of the end-user practice, which would damage the bilateral relations if an Israeli export contract, would have to be cancelled because of that. And it also can't be ruled out, that Israeli would then also refuse to deliver components to Germany.

The Table 1 on the export of German engines for Israeli naval systems, including the sales to third countries, is supposed to underline the above mentioned surprisingly large volume of components transfer and the problematic of re-export and end-usage. All together an impressive number of 32 MTU engines were delivered to the Israeli Navy in the 90's and at least 32 MTU-engines were eventually re-export to third countries.

Table 1. Export of German engines to Israel and their re-export to third countries



Number and type of ships

Number and type of engines

Exported to Israel



4 Saar 4.5 FAC

4 MTU 16V 538 TB93 or MTU 16V 396 TE



3 Saar 5 Corvette

2 MTU 12V 1163 TB82



5 Super Dvora Mk.2 patrol boats

2 MTU 12V 396 TE94

Re-exported by Israel



4 Super Dvora Mk.2 patrol boats

2 MTU 8V 396 TE94



1 (+1) Super Dvora Mk.2 patrol boat

2 MTU 12V 396 TE94

Sri Lanka


4 Super Dvora Mk.2 patrol boats

2 MTU 12V 396 TE94

Sri Lanka


2 (+10) Shaldag patrol boat (Colombo class)

2 MTU 12V 396 TE94



4 (+15) Super Dvora Mk.2 patrol boats

2 MTU 12V 396 TE94

TR Cyprus


1 Shaldag patrol boat

2 MTU 12V 396 TE

Source: Richard Sharpe (ed.), Jane's Fighting Ships 1999-2000. Jane's Information Group Ltd., 102nd Edition, Coulsdon/Surrey, 1999.

A recent example for the export of components are the 400 MTU-engines MTU 883 V-12 with Renk transmissions for the new tank Merkava Mk.4. According to some articles, the volume of the deal amounts to $265 million. They are being delivered through the US company General Dynamics Land Systems, which has a licence for the production of the engines as GD 883.(22) The previous version Merkava Mk.3 was also equipped with a Renk transmission RK 304 and also with a turret stabilising system GEADRIVE by Extel Systems Wedel GmbH of Germany. (23)

Presently a further deal is being negotiated. In March 2002 Israel Military Industries (IMI) has signed a provisional contract with the Turkish government for the modernisation of the Turkish M-60 tanks to the Israeli Sabra M-60 Mk.3 standard. In a fist batch 170 tanks will be refitted – among other things with MTU engines and Renk transmission.(24) Here the German government again will be in difficulties to justify why German components can be exported via Israel to Turkey but not directly because of the ongoing violation of human rights in Turkey and the war against the Kurdish population. This shows, that the German government will again face the dilemma to reconcile its criteria for arms exports (like the protection of human rights) with the reality of arms cooperation with Israel.

Joint Ventures for the future?

While there will most certainly be an occasional export of complete weapon systems and the present form of component transfers will continue, the direct industry-to-industry cooperation will soon dominate the bilateral armaments dealings. Already, the mid-90's have seen a sudden influx of joint-ventures and marketing agreements for projects in third countries.

For the latter development one can find two examples: the modernisation of the Greek F-4E Phantom II aircraft and the Romanian MiG-29 Sniper programme. The still ongoing modernisation of 39 Greek F-4E aircraft has the Deutsche Aerospace AG (DASA, now part of EADS) as the main contractor responsible for the complete systems integration. Israel's Elbit Systems is supplying the core avionics components, including displays and radar. While the basic modernisation is scheduled to be finished this year, it seems that both DASA and Elbit will continue working together on the integration of the Dispenser Weapon System of DASA and the Litening Pod of the Rafael Armament Development Authority into the Greek F-4E II.(25)

A second cooperation project was the proposed modernisation of the MiG-29 for the Romanian Air Force to Sniper standard, a programme involving Aerostar, DASA/EADS and Elbit Systems. Although again DASA would have been responsible for the whole systems integration and adaptation to NATO standards, it was Elbit's experience with the MiG-21 Lancer modernisation that secured the contract. A prototype of the Sniper version was build in 1999, but since then the Romanian government been postponing the decision and has instead promoted other MiG-29 modernisation programmes. (26)

These relatively new forms of cooperation are a direct result of the growing capabilities of Israeli companies to develop and manufacture high-tech components, which are compatible with the German know-how of system integration and adapting NATO-standards. Furthermore, although almost no reliable figures on Israel's defence industry are published, there is a general agreement among experts that in order to maintain the current level of output-price relation for the IDF and guarantee indigenous R&D capabilities, the defence industry has to continually step up their export sales and therefore develop new markets.

According to figures of the Israeli Foreign Defence Assistance and Defence Export Agency (SIBAT), 75% of the total defence production of $3,9 billion is designated for exports. Of these only about 13% of the arms sales go to Europe – a shortcome Israeli defence companies try to amend.(27) In order to enter the European arms market, Israel does need a European partner. Germany, due to the long co-operative relationship is regarded as an ideal partner. Therefore there was a remarkable increase in established joint ventures since the mid-90's – usually with Israeli companies as suppliers of modern technological solutions and/or complete sub-system and German companies as the prime contractor on the European market. This also allows for a very discreet exchange of technological information.

The first such joint venture was created in 1995 between Rafael and Zeiss Eltro Optronik (now only Zeiss Optronik). The joint venture included a competition for a contract from the Bundeswehr to equip 20 Tornado aircraft with laser designator Litening Pods, which was eventually won. While Rafael supplied the basic technology, Zeiss integrated its FLIR SYNERGI optronic system. This FLIR-technology was also supposed to be included in the Rafael bid for equipping the Israeli F-16 aircraft. Furthermore, they agreed that Zeiss would set up a production line in Germany and compete as the prime contractor for the JAS-39 Gripen fighter aircraft export version from Saab AB as well as the potential modernisation contracts in Norway, Greece and Spain. Both companies estimated an initial volume to be around 350 million DM and agreed on a 50:50 share of the income.(28)

A second joint venture was created in 1996 between IMI and Rheinmetall De Tec to develop and produce 155 mm cargo-ammunition, including self-destruct bomblets. Not much is known about the results of this cooperation, although the German Army did incorporate the Israeli M 85 bomblets as the DM 1383 into the DM 662 cargo-ammunition. They also participated in a tender that took place in the United Kingdom, but it seems that at the end IMI delivered its M396 cargo-ammunition directly to the United Kingdom. (29)

The third joint venture centres on the marketing of the Spike family of anti-tank guided missiles developed by Rafael. Together with Rafael the German companies Rheinmetall De Tec, STN Atlas Elektronik and Diehl VA have created the Eurospike consortium in 1998 to market the products on the European continent. First contracts were signed with the Netherlands, Finland and Poland. (30)

A fourth joint venture seems to be developing in regard to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). While German companies do still possess some practical experience, with the some major programmes now commencing towards the production phase (Brevel, KZO, Taifun), they still lag behind compared to Israeli companies, which have continuously developed new all-weather day/night reconnaissance drone technologies. One of the few past collaborative projects of the late 80's led to the development of the Israeli Harpy anti-radar UAV.

In 1989 Dornier GmbH (now part of EADS) and Israel Aircraft Industries tried to win a contract from the German government. Dornier provided the integration and adaptation of the Telefunken Systeme searcher. Due to lack of funds the German version Drohne Antiradar remained in the loop while Israel began to sell the Harpy to India, South Korea and Turkey. (31)

Now, as the European governments increasingly see the necessity of procuring UAV, and especially combat variants, the integration of Israeli technical solutions seem to be a preferred first step. EADS has already signed a cooperation agreement with IAI to adapt the Heron UAV as the medium altitude long endurance reconnaissance and communication UAV Eagle. As Eagle 1 it is presently being procured by the French government and tested in Sweden.(32) Furthermore, EADS and IAI recognise a future market in larger combat versions. Since they would need a larger hull and engine power to lift off, a partnership with EADS might be very attractive, since they have more experience with larger platforms.

A last interesting and growing area of cooperation is the space technology segment. While there are no direct military cooperation arrangements known, it is certain, that Germany wants to field national military reconnaissance satellites. The high-resolution cameras and sensor-technologies of the Israeli companies, already demonstrated in the Ofeq-5 military satellite and other versions, are very attractive for the German side. Presently, the German company OHB Systems Bremen is preparing the launch of a small environmental observation satellite (DIAMOND) with a Multi Spectral High Resolution Camera developed by Israeli El-Op. Even though the resolution – as officially listed – would not fulfil military requirements, it could prove to be a first step for further cooperation. (33)

State of affairs

German-Israeli armaments cooperation will retain some of its special characteristics, namely as highly secretive and low profile. At least from a German viewpoint, political sensitivities regarding the arms exports to crisis regions and the question of end-usage remains unresolved. On the other hand it is clear, that Germany doesn't want to lose Israel as a customer for components and as a supplier of electronics and information technology.

While aspects like joint technical evaluation, exchange of know-how and components transfer will continue to make up the larger portion of cooperation – keeping the financial volume small – the direction of transfers can be expected to change. The analysis shows that increasingly the balance regarding the qualitative dimension of the armaments transfers tips towards Israel. Israel’s industry has managed to adapt American and European technologies and to improve them, especially in the areas of electronic warfare, avionics, optronics and data processing. They have made these specific products compatible to most weapon systems, which are now being modernised worldwide. Since Israeli companies are eager to exploit the European market and consider Germany as the prime location for market entry, they will be willing to include German companies in the production and marketing lines. Furthermore, this trend will be supported by the reduced inclination of Germany to finance exports to Israel, since it lacks adequate funds and Israel’s industry is considered now to be competitive enough.

The commercially driven cooperation in the armaments technology sector will increasingly structure the future relationship and will lead to an increasing number of joint ventures being established. One exception could be the area of R&D, where both governments might feel inclined to retain a certain hold on the direction military research should take. German and Israeli research institutions will widen their scope of cooperation – also including the financing of research projects of small and medium enterprises. Furthermore, the German government will try to integrate the Israeli institutions in the European and NATO dual-use and military research programmes. Both sides will meet as equals, perhaps with the arms trade balance even tilting towards Israel, since the German government will not be very willing to pay for export sales to Israel.

A decline of state involvement in armaments cooperation won't be mirrored by a decline of importance, the governments attach to it. Instead, a continuing intensification of commercial cooperation will probably deepen the mutual dependency, leading to closer long-term ties. Unless the German government will finally develop and practice a coherent policy in regard to arms exports and the protection of human rights, German-Israeli armaments cooperation is bound to create new scandals.


   is researcher at the Berlin Information Center for Transatlantic Security (BITS).


(1) For a good overview, read Peter F. Müller / Michael Mueller, Gegen Freund und Feind. Der BND: Geheime Politik und schmutzige Geschäfte, Rowohlt Verlag, Hamburg, 2002, pages 485-504.
(2) A contract for the construction of twelve boats of the Saar-class at the French wharf Construction Mechaniques de Normandie at Cherbourg, based on a design by the German Luerssen Werft, was signed in 1965/66. In 1972 HDW and Vickers Shipyards signed the contract for the construction of three Gal-class submarines (Type 540).
(3) Estimates of the total financial value of the different military aid programmes in the 50's and 60's range between 250 and 400 million DM.
(4) Written answer of the German Ministry of Defence from the 10.12.1991 to a question of the SPD MP Walter Kolbow regarding the government report on "Überlassung von Wehrmaterial aus Beständen der ehemaligen NVA".
(5) Bild Zeitung, 10.4.2002; Financial Times Deutschland, 9.4.2002; Frankfurter Rundschau, 10.4.2002.
(6) The German government introduced new "Political Principles for the Export of War Weapons and Other Military Equipment" on January 19th, 2000. The preamble states: "The Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, desiring (...) through the restriction and control of such exports to contribute to safeguarding peace, preventing the threat or use of force, securing respect for human rights and promoting sustainable development in all parts of the world (...)" For the English version of the political principles see the Report of the Government of the Federal Republic of German on its Policy on Exports of Conventional Military Equipment in 2000, Annex 1, page 28-36.
(7) Deutscher Bundestag, Plenarprotokoll 14/233, S.23115 (A), 25.04.2002.
(8) For more details on German export regulations read the Report of the Government of the Federal Republic of German on its Policy on Exports of Conventional Military Equipment of 1999 and 2000, found at and  respectively and Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 14/5415, pages 9-12 regarding the real arms exports to Israel.
(9) Air Force Monthly, Nr. 9, 2002, page 19; Jane's Defence Weekly, 6.03.2002, page 17.
(10) Until now some questions regarding the deal still remains open: who financed the fire control system, build by STN Atlas Elektronik, since its estimated cost of about $100 million was not included in the original deal; did Germany agree to buy military goods worth $400 million as "compensation in kind" for the Dolphins. Jane's Defence Weekly, 11.5.91, S. 774; Military Technology, No. 2, 1991, pages 89f.
(11) Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 13/1021, 30.03.1995.
(12) More details on US-Israeli defence cooperation see Sean Odlum, The US-Israeli Armstrade, BITS Research Note, Berlin (expected to be available in December 2002),
(13) Jane's Defence Weekly, 24.2.1999, page 19.
(14)For a detailed description of the involved companies see Naval Forces, No. 6, 1998, pages 62-79.
(15) For the present discussion see Amnon Barzilai, Dolphin sub deal glitters in Isreal's eye, in: Ha'aretz, 29.07.2002 (English Edition),
(16)Defence Systems Daily, 26.10.2000, The German government justified the inclusion of 650mm tubes with the argument, that on delivery to Israel the larger tubes were artificially scaled down with metal rods to the standard 533mm diameter.
(17) In 1979 a framework agreement between BND and MoD was reached on issues of cooperation. In 1986 this cooperation was institutionalised through the Coordination Group "War materiel of foreign states". Two years later, in 1988, a Coordination Committee with the same name was installed.
(18) For an overview of NVA goods delivered to Israel please see: "Annex 4: Examples of NVA Deliveries for Technical Intelligence, Testing and Evaluation Purposes", in: Otfried Nassauer, An Army Surplus – The NVA's Heritage, Bonn International Center for Conversion Research (BICC), Brief No. 3, 1995, found at:
(19) See for example regarding the Lancer upgrade AirForces Monthly, No. 9, 2002, page 60; Interavia, No. 3, 2002, page 14.
(20) The Guardian, 29.10.1991; Süddeutsche Zeitung, 31.10.1991.
(21) Süddeutsche Zeitung, 26.11.1998.
(22) Defense News Weekly, 15.04.2002, page 6; Jane's Defence Weekly, 17.04.2002, page 5; Military Technology, No. 8, 2002, page 11.
(23) Some of the tank components were mentioned at the following places: Military Technology, No. 6, 2000, page 125; Jane's International Defence Review, No.3, 1999, page 62; Wehrtechnik, No. 3, 1999, page 76; Wehrtechnik, No. 7, 1997, page 22; Jane's International Defence Review, No. 10, 1995, page 36.
(24) Defense News Weekly, 25.03.2002, page 12; Jane's Defence Weekly, 20.03.2002, page 5; Hurriyet, 3.04.2002; Tagesspiegel, 22.04.2002.
(25) Jane's Defence Weekly, 17.9.1999, page 29; Wehrtechnik, No. 10, 1997, page 18; Military Technology, No. 10, 1999, page 37; Jane's Defence Weekly, 25.09.2002.
(26) Jane's Defence Weekly, 14.11.2001, page 14.
(27) Ha'aretz, 4.02.2002; Ha'aretz, 11.04.2002. The numbers presented should be treated as very rough estimates rather than real numbers.
(28) A procurement of further 16 Litening Pods for the Navy Airforce has not yet been decided; Wehrtechnik, No. 8-9, 1997, page 55; Soldat und Technik, No. 11, 1995, page 711; Deutscher Bundestag, Drucksache 13/1605, page 34; uT 12/97 (728); SuT 6/00 (371); ES 6/95 (53); SuT 3/95 (151); SuT 11/95 (711).
(29) Jane's International Defence Review, No. 9, 1996, page 19; Jane's International Defence Review, No. 12, 1995, page 18.
(30) All three contracts are expected to have a total value of at least $500 million.
(31) On the DAR see Armed Forces Journal International, No. 1, 1990, page 79; Jane's International Defense Review, Nr. 9, 1997, page 23. For Harpy exports see the SIPRI archive under
(32) Rishon Lexiyyon Globes, 26.03.2002; Aviation Week & Space Technology, 14.10.2002, page 30.
(33) Military Technology, No. 6, 1999, page 67; more information also found under