Russia, Israel and UAS technology – mixed opinions

The transfer of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) technology from Israel to Russia is controlled – but there is no doubt it helped the Russians move forward after years of stagnation in the development of unmanned platforms.

The result is logical, as even basic Israeli-made UAS include features that have been developed through 40 years of operational use.

The shape of the fuselage, the location of the payload, the wings – all these seem to an unprofessional eye as negligible things, but they actually make the difference between a radio-controlled model aircraft and an operational UAS with advanced capabilities based on the airframe and payload design.

The hot topic now is whether technology transfer from Israel helps Russia to design its first “strike” UAS.

According to official Russian sources, the UAS it is expected to fly in 2014 will be equipped with sensors and “armament”.

Russia came to Israel for UAS after Russian MIG-29 fighters shot down an Israeli-made Hermes-450 UAS operated by the Georgian air force during the war between those two countries.

The Russians first purchased two types of UAS made by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) – the BirdEye-400 and the improved Searcher-2. This initial deal was valued at $50 million.

Following this deal, the Russian press reported that Moscow has finalised a new deal – this time, according to some sources, for more advanced UAS. Unlike the first deal, the follow-on deal included technology transfer.

Official Israeli sources have claimed that all the deals included only “basic technology used in small systems”.

Russian officials did not refer to any technology transfer that is involved in the development of the new “strike” UAS, but sources said the purchase of UAS developed in Israel helped Russia to make a “big leap” in the relevant technology.

In Israel there are split opinions over the deals. Some have opposed the sales, claiming that it may lead to “leaks” of technology to hostile countries like Iran and Syria. Others have claimed the benefits of the UAS deals with Russia have been greater than any possible damage.

According to some foreign sources the deal helped to convince Moscow not to sell advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran.

It was obvious that Russia needed the Israeli technology for an interim period until its industry closes the gap in UAS design and production.

I have a feeling that we will hear about this issue again as Russia advances in UAS production.

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