Russia's parliament approves purchase of Israel-made UAVs

Published 13 April 2009

The $50 million deal is seen in Israel to be of major significance strategically and commercially; Israel hopes growing defense cooperation with Russia will persuade the latter not to sell sophisticated S-300 defensive systems to Iran and Syria

We wrote last week (9 April 2009 HS Daily Wire) about Russia’s plans to acquire Israel-made UAVs. It has now been confirmed that Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) will sell UAVs to Russia for $50 million, after the Russian Parliament approved the deal.

Globes’s Merav Ankori writes that the deal is important on two levels. First, it tightens Israel’s security relations with Russia, and lessens the chance that Russia will sell its S-300 surface-to-air missiles (SAM) to Iran or Syria. Iran wants these missiles — indeed, sophisticated systems of radar stations and missiles — very much. Both Iran and Syria also want to collaborate with Russia on arms systems. Second, the deal opens a new and potentially lucrative market for Israel’s defense industry.

The UAV deal is sensitive one to the Israeli defense establishment. Its main concern was to be careful with which technologies were offered to foreign buyers since it did not want to divulge technologies deemed essential to Israel’s own security. An Israeli defense official said, “After reviewing systems of IAI and Elbit Systems Ltd. (Nasdaq: ESLT; TASE: ESLT), the Russians decided to procure IAI systems. The deal is for tactical UAVs with ranges of up to 100 kilometers, not for IAI’s large and sophisticated UAVs. The tactical UAVs are intended for border missions.” The official added, “The Russians concluded that they needed UAVs after their war with Georgia in 2006, in which the Georgians operated Elbit Systems’ Hermes UAV. They visited two years ago as guests of the Israeli defense establishment.”