Poland fears Russia will take control of its Israeli-made UAVs

Israeli defence exports can sometimes lead to strange situations and, according to the Polish press, such a situation is happening now.

The Polish ministry of defence plans to purchase unmanned air systems (UAS) from Israel but is worried that Russia, having also purchased Israeli UAS, will be able to control them. According to Polish newspaper Gazeta, Gen Shmaya Avieli, head of Israeli ministry of defence export department Sibat, will meet Poland’s deputy minister of defence Waldemar Skrzypczak to discuss the issue.

As Flight International has reported, co-operation between Russia and Israel in the UAS field is set to go a step further. The countries plan to jointly develop at least one UAS that would fit Russian operational needs.

In 2010, Russia signed a contract to purchase UAS made by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) valued at about $400 million. Deliveries of the Searcher-2 and BirdEye-400 are under way and, in parallel, Russia has built an assembly/production line as part of the contract. Gazeta says experts have warned that if they have all the technical data, Russia will be able to control any UAS Poland acquires.

In June, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin expressed his satisfaction over the Israeli-Russian UAS co-operation, which sources say is part of a larger “strategic understanding” that serves both sides in a wide spectrum of issues. One example, according to these sources, is Russia’s decision not to sell surface-air missiles to Iran. Sources say the co-operation would involve transfer of technologies and adaptation of UAS to operational conditions in Russia.

While talking about strange situations, here is another. Georgia purchased Israeli-made UAVs and used them during the 2008 South Ossetia war against Russia. At least one of the unmanned platforms was shot down by a Russian Mig-29. However, obviously impressed, Russia sought Israeli UAVs.

Returning to Poland, the Polish ministry of defence has decided to cancel the contract to purchase the Aerostar UAS made by Israeli company Aeronautics. The ministry will also ask for compensation.

The $35 million contract was signed in 2010 and included two systems. The purchase was made in order to deploy the UAS in Afghanistan, where Polish army units are part of the international force.

The contract included an automatic take-off and landing (ATOL) capability, which Warsaw insisted on so the Aerostar would be capable of landing safely in windy conditions. Aeronautics encountered problems with the ATOL capability and that has delayed delivery of the systems, according to sources.

The Israeli ministry of defence chose not to comment on any of the matters mentioned in this blog.

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