Some Israelis smiled two days ago when Israeli television reported that Russian unmanned air systems (UAS) were flying over Syria supporting the regime with real time intelligence about rebels units.
Asked what made them smile, they smiled even wider, but did not answer.
I can only guess, of course, but this puzzle is very interesting.
According to the international press, during the Russia-Georgia war in 2008, a Russian air force MiG-29 shot down at least two Israeli-made UAS that were flown by the Georgian army.
The deal was never confirmed by Israel, but in 2011 Israeli defence company Elbit Systems filed a lawsuit in the UK’s High Court against the government of Georgia, alleging failure to pay for equipment supplied under several contracts signed in 2007.
The company was seeking around $100 million through the action, which Israeli sources say was linked primarily to deals to supply Georgia with Hermes 450 tactical UAS. Elbit said in December 2011 that the parties had settled the dispute, with Georgia agreeing to pay about $35 million and return some equipment.
Without doubt, the Georgian army’s use of UAS during the conflict spurred Russian interest in unmanned systems.
The interest soon translated into huge contracts to acquire at least two types of UAS from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and know-how for local production.
So these are some of the pieces of the puzzle.
Israel sold UAS to Georgia, Russia became angry and shot some down. Soon after that, Moscow purchased Israeli-made UAS.
Some could not resist a smile when information emerged about Russian UAS assisting the Syrian regime.
In a complex world, and especially in the Middle East, this episode may have added some pieces to that complicated puzzle.