Israel rethinks UAV sale to Russia

Moscow will receive IAI's low-tier UAVs instead of models of its most advanced versions.

Searcher UAV unmanned IAF 248 88 (photo credit: Yaakov Katz [file])
Searcher UAV unmanned IAF 248 88
(photo credit: Yaakov Katz [file])
Israel does not plan to sell Russia its most advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), defense officials said Monday, after a top Russian official said that the 12 Moscow recently purchased from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) would be used for study, to build similar models domestically. In a $53 million deal signed recently, Russia will receive two models of IAI's low-tier UAVs - the I-view MK150 tactical UAV and the Searcher Mk II medium-range UAV. In an interview with the RIA Novosti news agency on Monday, Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputy head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, revealed that the main goal of the deal with Israel was to study the technology in order to build the drones domestically. "We must take their know-how and put it to practical use [in developing our own craft]," Dzirkaln was quoted as saying. Russia's interest in Israeli drones surfaced in late 2008 following the war in Georgia, during which Tbilisi operated Israeli-made drones. Israeli officials said that this was not part of the deal signed with Russia, but that the possibility had been "taken into consideration," and as a result the advanced UAV models and accompanying technology would not be sold to Moscow. "We have a responsibility to safeguard our ingenious technology," one official said. "We were aware of this possibility, even though it was not said explicitly until now." According to Russian media reports, the military is planning on manufacturing 100 drones and close to a dozen guidance systems that could be used for reconnaissance in the event of a conflict. Until now, the reports said, Russian defense companies - Irkut and Vega Radio - have failed to develop an advanced system.