Russia’s big appetite for unmanned air systems (UAS) continues. The nation now plans to buy and assemble Israeli-made UAS and use them as a “gap filler” until they are capable of developing their own.
This may seem strange, but Russia – as a superpower – has totally neglected UAS capabilities. During the war with Georgia in 2008, Israeli-made UAS were instrumental in causing casualties to the Russian army.
This angered Moscow, and the Russian air force was instructed to shoot down any UAS on sight. Russian MiG-29s managed to shoot down at least one Elbit Systems Hermes-450 UAS – and this was without doubt the turning point.
Last year, Russia purchased a huge number of UAS systems made by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) – mainly Searcher II types.
This was the first step in a planned purchase of more UAS, with a total value of $400 million.
The Russians have indicated the IAI Heron UAS is a key choice, and hinted that other types are on the “wish list”.
This planned additional purchase of Israeli-made UAS is to be accompanied by a joint venture between IAI and Russian companies, aimed at building a UAS manufacturing facility in Russia.
Israeli observers said the signed contracts between Israel and Russia are aiming to allow Russian design bureaus to catch up with the world,and develop UAS designs with operational capabilities.
The Russians are further motivated by the Israeli policy to sell them only selected types that would not harm Israel if they find their way to a third party.