Russians to buy Israeli UAVs

Posted: April 10, 2009 by Jonathan Boyko in Israel
Tags: ,

IAI's Heron UAV

IAI's Heron UAV

According to news reports, Russian military will acquire Israeli Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, usually used for long-range, long-time reconnaissance, as well as assassinations using precision missiles:

Russia has concluded a contract with an Israeli firm for the sale of drones, a defense official said Friday, in Moscow’s first purchase of military hardware from the Jewish state.

“We have concluded a contract with an Israeli firm on supplying Russia with several drones,” Russian Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin said after returning from a trip to Israel, quoted by Russian news agencies.

The minister didn’t name the Israeli company involved, but press reports have identified it as Israel Aerospace Industries.

The reports did not give details on how many drones Russia would buy from Israel.

While some might view the purchase as a breakthrough in relationships between Israel and usually Arab-siding Russia, it probably is not. Russian anti-Semitism is on the rise and anti-Israel sentiment in Russian state-controlled press is quite high, with no signs of incoming objectivity. It is quite probable, that following Russia-Georgia conflict, Medvedev’s military officials discovered that while their soldiers fight well on the ground (at least with Georgian troops as opponents), commanders on the ground and in Moscow had little understanding of situation on the ground. The military probably pushed the government to supply UAVs, which could both give commanding officers a clearer picture and infiltrate deep into enemy territory, gathering intelligence and even assassinating higher ranks among the enemy.

Russians, however, have little experience in UAV building – numbers of produced operational Soviet/Russian models are view, most of them incapable of long endurance missions (for example, the Zala 421-08). There are few countries with substantial experience in building UAVs, among the few – Israel and the United States. Russian government could not have made official deals with the US, as it would provoke angry response from Russian population, with Putin officials adding lots of fuel to the fire in past years. Thus, Russians had to go for second best option, which would not tie them to the US and bring the results the military needed.

Although this purchase could theoretically lead to improvement in relations between the Jews and the Russians, I would caution anyone from being optimistic on this – Russians cannot allow themselves to have close ties with Israel, as it would hurt relationships with rich Arab countries – such as Qatar. Another possibility is that Russians buy the UAVs to get their hands on the technology, which they will later definitely use to produce UAVs of their own.

  1. […] I have mentioned before, this purchase deal is not tightening ties with Israel. Instead, Russians are about to […]

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