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    UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

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    medo

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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  medo on Tue Jun 05, 2012 4:29 pm

    It's interesting MVD abd FSB will buy Israeli UAVs, while they use similar UAVs from Zala, Orlan, Eniks, etc. Is the problem in production speed, that domestic producers could not produce them fast enough?
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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  GarryB on Thu Jun 07, 2012 10:11 am

    I suspect the Israeli UAVs fill a gap that the Russian makers have yet to fill.

    I remember criticisms of Russian UAVs was lack of speed and range and altitude and they are too noisy and their sensors are not up to scratch.

    They have improved the cameras and the stabilisation systems, but as I said many times the Israelis have spent large amounts of money on these things and developed and perfected them over decades, the Russians have had UAVs, though generally for very specific roles like the Pchelka artillery spotter or the Reis long range UAV recon drone.

    The Russian military has been looking but not spending for 2 decades... and only since 2008 have they actually been serious about actually spending money.

    They apparently squandered a large sum of money on a few companies that didn't deliver and there could be a bit of a backlash in that regard, but for the most part up until 2008 the Russian companies that even bothered to put up prototypes at airshows wouldn't have the production capacity to make hundreds and supply them to the military with full documentation and ground support equipment without funding.

    With no money invested the Russian companies couldn't afford expensive but capable high resolution high magnification cameras and thermal imagers and stabilisation systems and navigation systems to allow them to operate autonomously.

    Most people think that UAVs are like model planes but they are not. They are aircraft that have navigation systems that enable them to fly automatically to a target area, that can be rerouted to areas of interest to orbit over things, and can be flown manually, but most of the time they will actually operate autonomously. The communications equipment needs live video with navigation overlay to show where the aircraft is and what it can see and needs to be robust and encrypted to the other guys can't see what you see.

    Most of the time the operators operate the cameras and sensor packages and only rarely will they actually manually fly the aircraft.


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    medo

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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  medo on Thu Jun 07, 2012 4:59 pm

    Critics were made by MoD, not from MVD or FSB, which use quite a number of domestic UAVs like from Zala, which also improve its UAVs through years.
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    Sujoy

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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  Sujoy on Thu Jun 07, 2012 6:48 pm

    New generation firms in Russia have also joined UAV development for the state defense order, such as Tranzas from Saint Petersburg, which is known for the development of navigation systems, simulators and avionics. New generation aircraft are still undergoing tests, but we can already say that the army will receive drones.
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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  GarryB on Fri Jun 08, 2012 1:53 am

    Critics were made by MoD, not from MVD or FSB, which use quite a number of domestic UAVs like from Zala, which also improve its UAVs through years.

    This is quite true, but different UAV requirements are needed for different roles.

    Most of the criticism from the MoD came from the Air Force that wanted long range and high altitude... which means of course a fairly large and expensive aircraft with powerful high quality cameras and powerful datalinks etc etc.

    The previous FSB and MVD requirements have been short range close by observation around a patrol vehicle for instance.

    Now they are likely looking at longer range longer endurance UAVs that are not operated by front line troops but communicate with front line troops and pass live data to those forces.

    There are plenty of successful Russian UAVs in service with many organisations both government and private company used for checking pipelines or overhead wire networks for problems or damage... like fallen trees or leaking pipes or broken wires. Flying at medium to low altitudes will give a better view of the object of attention that has known coordinates.

    For border protection however you will need to be silent because if the subject knows they are being watched they will take steps to remain hidden. To maximise coverage a high flight altitude will give good coverage, and for the purposes of search and rescue being able to deliver support or rescue equipment could be a plus.

    I have read about a few Russian designs that have a built in glider component that can drop payloads of up to 25kgs of material with a glide capability... this would be very useful to supply troops behind enemy lines as it would be silent, and 25kgs of food and water and ammo would be useful, but in a survival situation if the UAV spots people on the ground in the middle of the desert or Siberia then dropping them food and water and a tent or cooking stove for hot food or just warmth could be very important. After dropping the rescue material with flares and tents or whatever the main UAV can circle the area till a ground team reaches the people or person in distress providing a communications relay source for ground searchers and directing them to the people needing rescue.


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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  Sujoy on Fri Jun 08, 2012 5:30 pm

    VOICE OF RUSSIA

    Russian engineers have come up with a one-of-a-kind drone, which can fly indoors.

    With no wings, tail and fuselage, it can glide freely between buildings, lift off vertically and land just about everywhere.

    Ideal for aerial reconnaissance, cargo hauling and street patrol, the aircraft is already being eyed by the Emergency Situations Ministry, police and the military.
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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  medo on Sat Jun 09, 2012 11:12 am

    They are for some time in the use with MVD and maybe with others too like ZALA 421-21.
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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  George1 on Fri Jun 15, 2012 3:59 am

    Russia Must Develop Unmanned Planes - Putin

    Russia must develop a range of military unmanned air vehicles (UAV) including strike and reconnaissance types, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday during a visit to an air force base.

    "We need a program for unmanned aircraft. Experts say this is a most important area of development in aviation," he said. "We need a range of all types, including automated strike aircraft, reconnaissance and other types," Putin said.

    Russia plans to spend around 400 billion rubles ($13 billion) on UAV development in the next eight years.


    http://en.rian.ru/mlitary_news/20120614/174030686.html
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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  GarryB on Fri Jun 15, 2012 12:45 pm

    So even if the Mig SKATE didn't get funding they will be working on something perhaps similar to it.

    If they can make the UCAV LO it can operate at medium altitudes which maximises flight range and speed and keeps it safe from low altitude SAMs and trash fire.

    The F-117 was a subsonic bomber able to carry two laser guided bombs as a payload at a speed of about 800km/h and a flight range of 2,000km or so.

    The Mig Skat was supposed to be about the size of a Mig-29 in width but shorter in length and obviously LO, and with two internal bomb bays for guided bombs or even ARMs like the Kh-31 and a single engine it would have had a performance very similar to the F-117 but presumably at a fraction of the cost.

    Using satellite guided bombs the aircraft itself could be made fairly cheap and simple with most of the cost in the stealth design.

    In fact you could send a dozen into an unknown area armed only with ARMs following specific courses where you suspect the enemy has SAMs set up and just use them to orbit certain areas looking for threats just before sending in an Su-34 flight to attack targets. Any SAM sites becoming operational can be fired upon by the UCAVs as the Su-34s penetrate at low altitude at high speed.

    One of the UCAVs could be designed as a UAV without weapon bays, but with optical, IR and radar sensors to find targets for the UCAVs it will be operating with... hardly something new for the Russians... the Granits and Onyx Anti Ship missiles have been doing that sort of thing for decades...


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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  Sujoy on Mon Jun 18, 2012 2:00 pm

    Rogozin said in an interview with the Rossia-24 TV channel last Wednesday (Jun-13) that Russia and Israel are negotiating a joint project to build an unmanned aerial vehicle. Russia's aim according to Rogozin is to persuade Israel to start technological cooperation and to develop a product that will be used in both countries, and could also be sold to third countries.Technology would be attracted by localizing production on Russian territory.

    The Russian Defense Ministry is considering the possibility of purchasing from the Israeli company Aeronautics Defense Systems of three types of UAV control systems (eight each): Orbiter 2, Aerostar and Skystar,
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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  GarryB on Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:46 am

    Sounds to me like Putin is prepared to invest a lot of money into UAVs... a joint venture with Israel might be useful and save some time and money, but I rather doubt Israel will sell Russia anything highly secret or capable... which is perfectly understandible.

    Would be useful, but I would prefer to see Russian money invested in Russian companies and if they don't have the capability or experience... there is only one way they will get it... and that is from experience.


    I rather expect that the combination of laser guided ATAKA and Kornet-EM and now Krisantema with laser beam and SARH guidance together with the smaller and lighter Ugroza guidance kits for unguided rockets that they will be spoiled for choice for their light UCAVs.

    Together with Igla-S and probably satellite guided FAB-50 bombs... the latter perhaps carried internally and they have the capability to hit a range of point targets without too much expense.

    Certainly in terms of innovation, they have rocket launched UAVs based on Smerch rockets for use in target detection and damage assessment, they have large box shaped pods for helicopter launched UAVs, and they have UAVs that can drop glider payloads with weights of up to 25 kgs each to silently deliver weapons or water or food or ammo to forces on the battlefield. I rather suspect they have a wide range of ideas just waiting for an injection of money to realise.

    Most important is that all the branches of the Russian military seem to be keen to add UAVs to their forces to expand their capabilities. The war in Georgia was a wake up call I think... because before then there was a lot of talk about new purchases and spending but very little action.


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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  Sujoy on Tue Jun 19, 2012 9:47 pm

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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  Sujoy on Wed Jun 20, 2012 6:18 pm

    Russia’s military hardware manufacturers have already started developing their own unmanned aerial vehicle similar to the Predator drones.At present, two Russian companies, Tranzas Company in St. Petersburg and Sokol Design Bureau in Kazan are engaged in developing Predator-class drones. As a reminder ,last year, they won the Russian Defence Ministry’s tender and are developing two vehicles. The payload of the first is about one ton. The second one is close to the American Predator and weighs about 4.5-5.0 tons.
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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  Sujoy on Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:16 pm

    RIA NOVOSTI

    Russian army will receive first Indigenous Strike UAV in 2014.St. Petersburg-based Tranzas company has been ordered to start flight tests of the strike drone in the beginning of 2014 in order to put it in service by the end of the same year
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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  GarryB on Fri Jun 29, 2012 12:49 pm

    Boy, that is a fairly tight schedule...

    Of course it might be a disposable cheap model rather than a super sophisticated stealthy model.

    It is funny how early on UAVs were supposed to be the answer because they were cheap and disposable, yet current HALE models cost more than lead in fighter trainer aircraft and are certainly not disposable.

    A cheap simple 1-2 ton aircraft with a decent range and half ton payload that could be mass produced would make a lot of sense.

    In fact the ideal propulsion would be the sort of jet engine as used on the V-1 doodlebug which is cheap and simple too.

    If it makes it back then refuel and rearm and reprogram, and if it doesn't... no big deal...


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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  KomissarBojanchev on Sun Sep 02, 2012 8:56 pm

    Its a pity that the soviets didnt modify the Tu-123 or Tu-141 to have landing gear(or at least landing skids), replace the camera equipment with targeting sights and added 2 or 3 hardpoints for dumb bombs up to the FAB-250 and light missiles like the kh-23 and kh-25. Wouldve been a badass early UCAV that wouldve predated the americans flimsy predators.
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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  GarryB on Mon Sep 03, 2012 12:34 am

    Its a pity that the soviets didnt modify the Tu-123 or Tu-141 to have landing gear(or at least landing skids), replace the camera equipment with targeting sights and added 2 or 3 hardpoints for dumb bombs up to the FAB-250 and light missiles like the kh-23 and kh-25. Wouldve been a badass early UCAV that wouldve predated the americans flimsy predators.

    Actually it was the Tu-123/141 like UAVs that put the Russian AF off UAVs in general.

    These big Tupolevs were expensive, especially the 123 that was not recoverable. Its engine was similar to the engine in the Mig-25 and offered very high performance but the cost of a single use drone was enormous even for the Soviets who were happy to throw money at problems.

    From memory there were several attempts to market armed UAVs based on the Tu designs, but the RuAF and the Russian Armed forces generally (except the Army with their Pechelkas) really wasn't interested until 2008 when they saw first hand what they were capable of.

    If I was building a UCAV these days I would recommend an armament of perhaps 8 Kornet-EM missiles on the wings in droppable single tubes and an internal weapon bay with perhaps 10 or more KAB-50 bombs with GLONASS guidance kits. High accuracy making a large warhead unnecessary.


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    ― Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order
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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  medo on Sun Sep 09, 2012 10:12 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=q7dK740HmHM

    First Russian build Searcher 2 UAVs are now in production. It seems they will be also for MChS and MVD units.
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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  medo on Tue Oct 09, 2012 4:48 pm

    http://www.lenta.ru/news/2012/10/09/uavs/

    Russian ground forces and VDV will receive Orlan-10 UAVs in 2013.
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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  medo on Fri Oct 12, 2012 8:51 pm

    http://vpk.name/news/76877_izrailskie_bespilotniki_okazalis_ne_gotovyi_k_russkoi_zime.html

    Russian military will have to adapt Israeli UAVS to be capable to operate in winter. In 2012 Russian army will receive 4 Russian made Searcher 2 and 12 Bird eye 400 UAVs.
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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  GarryB on Sat Oct 13, 2012 4:54 am

    A Russian designed UAV also needed modifications for the Russian winter.

    I think it was Tipchak that used a big rubber bungey cord to launch the UAV.

    In very cold temperatures the rubber material failed and the UAVs could not be launched.

    Would be amusing to design a sort of mini trebuche type launcher with a big long arm with a short line attached to the front of the UAV where a dropping weight slings to arm over to catapult the UAV into the sky.

    You would want to be sure the engine was already running well before launch, and you wouldn't want a UAV that was too fragile, but it would be cheap and reusable (which is why they tried rubber bungey launcing).

    Other launching techniques include rocket motor... which is expensive and hard to hide, or a runway launch... which of course requires a runway.


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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  medo on Sat Oct 13, 2012 4:12 pm

    Not all. Small Zala UAVs could be launched from hand, while bigger Zala-421-16 have pneumatic catapult.
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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  GarryB on Sat Oct 13, 2012 11:26 pm

    once you get over about 15kgs hand launch is not really a viable option.

    Most larger UAVs have vehicles associated with them so a compressor with a pneumatic launcher is a good all weather solution.

    To be honest when I first read about the bungey cord launch option I thought it was very clever as it is relatively cheap and reusable, and I didn't consider the effects of very low temperatures on the elastic nature of the rubber.

    Of course another option for the near future could be EM catapult, but it would be necessary to shield the UAV from the effects of powerful magnetic forces.

    Another option of course for very cold temperatures could simply be a hot air balloon like a barrage balloon... a large envelope with a gas burner to heat the air up with 4-5 small UAVs hanging below with a tether to your 4 wheel drive vehicle.

    Turn on the burner and the entire envelope will rise and take the UAVs a hundred metres up or so attached with the tether so it doesn't disappear.

    When it gets to height it can release UAVs as they are needed and they can fall vertically straight down to get up to speed and pull up and fly on to its preprogrammed flight path, or be manually controlled.

    For some missions you might not even need to release them... they could view the area from the balloon.


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    ― Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order
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    Mr.Kalishnikov47

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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  Mr.Kalishnikov47 on Thu Oct 25, 2012 9:38 pm

    MiG and Sukhoi to develop heavy attack drone

    Russian aircraft company "MIG" and "Dry" signed an agreement on cooperation in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles. On Thursday, October 25, according to ITAR-TASS referring to the general director of "MiG" Sergei Korotkov.
    According Korotkov, "MiG" will take part in the project, the tender for which previously won the Holding "Sukhoi". According to the agency, in July 2012 the Russian Defense Ministry has chosen the company "dry" as the main proponent of heavy percussion drone. Possible future machine specifications were not disclosed.

    Earlier work together on drums drone began of "Falcon" and "Transas". However, it was the middle class UAVs weighing up to five tons. However, several military sources, which refers to Itar-Tass, a joint project called "Falcon" and "Transas" more intelligence than the impact drone. In addition, the "Falcon" and "Transas" working together on UAVs weighing up to one ton. The total amount of funding of both projects is estimated at three billion.

    ITAR-TASS referring to the representative RAC "MiG", the company said on Oct. 25 as a significant increase in the use of composite materials in the construction of aircraft MiG-29. Instead of two or three per cent of the volume of composite materials in the construction of fighters is already 10-12 per cent. In particular, the use of composite materials has made half the area of ​​the outer surface of the aircraft. This, in turn, reduces the weight of the aircraft, to increase resistance to corrosion and design its rigidity.

    http://lenta.ru/news/2012/10/25/uav/

    (Google translate)

    Austin

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    Re: UAVs in Russian Armed Forces: News

    Post  Austin on Sun Nov 04, 2012 10:22 am

    Moscow Defense Brief

    Russian Imports of Israeli UAVs

    Mikhail Barabanov

    Israeli-made unmanned aerial vehicles were the first major weapons system Russia began to import from the West in the late-2000s after a long pause that had lasted since 1945. Before Russia signed a contract for two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships with France in 2011, imports of Israeli UAVs were the main symbol of the Russian MoD’s new readiness to source its weapons from foreign suppliers.

    The first contracts for Israeli drones attracted a lot of attention from the media and the expert community. But, unlike the MoD’s subsequent decisions to buy ships from France or Iveco LMV armored vehicles from Italy, they did not cause much controversy. Russia’s own defense industry is obviously lagging behind Western competitors in the UAV segment. That is why very few people questioned the rationale for importing such systems in order to gain access to the latest technologies and to start building up Russian expertise in operating this new weapons type.

    The Russian armed forces already have some solid experience with large jet-engine UAVs; that experience dates back to Soviet times, when such systems were designed by the Tupolev Bureau. In the 1980s the Soviet armed forces also began to roll out light tactical drones (such as the Pchela UAV, a Yakovlev bureau design). But by the time the Soviet Union began to break up, its defense industry was already lagging well behind in the new miniaturized UAV segment. In the subsequent years Russia was in the throes of a deep economic crisis, and all defense procurement programs were put on hold for a decade and a half. During those years the Russian armed forces simply could not afford any new weapons, let alone radically new systems requiring expensive R&D. That period coincided with rapid progress in Western UAV technologies, which have made a veritable breakthrough over the past two decades.

    As a result, by the time Russia had emerged from the economic crisis in the mid-2000s, a large gap separated it from the world leaders in building and operating UAVs. After 2000 the Russian defense industry made attempts to close that gap, but to no great avail. That industry itself was in decline; to make matters worse, several strategic errors were made in the planning of UAV programs. In particular, for a long time the government was trying to get the necessary results in the UAV segment from the existing design bureaus which specialized in large aircraft (Tupolev, Sukhoi, and Yakovlev), or from the old Soviet makers of electronics, which had no experience at all with such products. For example, at one point the government designated the Vega electronics concern as the lead Russian designer of UAVs. Also, there was no clear understanding that the success of any UAV design depends primarily on the control and payload systems, not on the airframe. The Russian MoD was initially wary of using commercially available or imported payload solutions, and tried to use indigenously made electronics, which were manifestly obsolete.

    Meanwhile, one of the main difficulties faced by the military was a total lack of experience in operating modern drones; neither was there a clear understanding of what that technology is actually capable of. As a result the MoD was finding it difficult even to formulate its own requirements to UAVs. It did not really know how that technology can be used, what role it can be assigned in the armed forces, what to do with the UAV-generated reconnaissance data, etc. In other words, the military did not understand what drones are for, and what to do with them.

    In such a situation, buying modern commercially available UAVs seemed like the quickest and the most obvious solution to the problem. After all, that is exactly what many other countries are doing. By receiving small batches of modern foreign-made drones, the armed forces can assess their capability and gain some initial experience in their use, determine the role they can play in the military strategies, assess the various available technologies, train personnel, and lay the ground for future training programs.

    When Russia was choosing the supplier of UAV technology, there were two clear world leaders in that segment, the United States and Israel. Approaching the United States was unthinkable for political reasons, so Israel was the natural choice. The decision was made easier by a significant improvement in Russian-Israeli relations saw in almost every area throughout the 2000s.

    First experience with Aeronautics Defense Systems

    Some individual Russian companies attempted to take the initiative and establish cooperation in UAV technology with Israeli suppliers as far back as the early 2000s. In 2002 the Irkut corporation signed a cooperation agreement with Aeronautics Defense Systems, a small Israeli defense company. Under the terms of the deal, ADS-designed Aerostar tactical drones (which have a range of up to 250km) were to be used in conjunction with the Be-200ChS aircraft by the Russian Emergencies Ministry. Irkut wanted to buy them as part of a ministry-commissioned project called “Aerial robotic monitoring and liquidation of emergency situations”, and use them to detect forest fires. The project was advertized by Irkut at the MAKS-2003 air show.

    The Russian company viewed cooperation with ADS as a way of entering the UAV market before launching independent R&D projects in this segment, including the development of drones for military applications. In October 2003 Irkut president A. Fedorov had this to say: «The new project of Irkut corporation, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, is a very promising segment of military and civilian aerospace technology. Our first experience here is a small drone which we are working on for the Emergencies Ministry. We expect that this drone will work in tandem with the Be-200 amphibious aircraft to deal with fires and other emergencies. This is a very competitive market, and Russia is lagging well behind the world leaders such as Israel, the United States and EADS. That is why Ikrut has taken an unusual step: rather than trying to develop out first UAV independently, we are doing it in cooperation with foreign partners. We have chosen a foreign company which has a lot of experience in this area, a small privately-owned Israeli company which is making a lot of progress and strengthening its positions in this market segment. We will work together to develop this drone and win a share of the market for small UAVs.»1

    The actual contract for a batch of Aerostar UAVs, worth «several million dollars», was signed by Irkut and ADS in September 2004.2 But the Israeli company then walked out of the deal, saying that it could not obtain the necessary permissions from the Israeli defense ministry. Relations between Irkut and ADS were broken off.3

    It is known, however, that at about the same time the Russian Federal Security Service, the FSB, bought from ADS several Skystar aerostat observation systems. They were used to provide security during the G8 summit in St Petersburg in 2006.4

    In early 2010 the Kommersant newspaper reported that the FSB was in talks with ADS to buy at least five Orbiter-series mini-UAVs, which have a range of 15 to 100 km. The report was denied by the FSB press service,5 but unofficial sources insist that the deal has in fact been signed.

    Contracts with Israel Aerospace Industries

    Contacts between the Russian MoD and Israel to discuss the purchase of military UAVs are thought to have begun soon after the appointment of Anatoliy Serdyukov as defense minister in early 2007. Russian interest in Israeli-made drones was spurred by the fact that Georgia used such drones (primarily the Hermes 450 UAVs bought from Elbit Systems) during a confrontation with Russian forces in Abkhazia in the spring of 2008 and during the conflict over South Ossetia in August 2008. According to official reports, five Georgian Hermes 450 drones were shot down by Russian and Abkhaz air defenses during the stand-off in Abkhazia. The fact that Elbit Systems had sold its UAVs to Georgia made it politically impossible for Moscow to approach the company. That is why Russia chose another leading Israeli drone maker, the state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

    Lengthy talks with the Israelis initially ran into opposition by the United States, which did not want advanced Israeli technology to fall into the hands of the Russians. But American objections to the proposed deal were lifted following the arrival of the Obama administration, which announced its Reset policy on Russia. Nevertheless, for reasons which probably included American pressure, Israel refused to sell its MALE-class, long-range IAI Heron UAVs. But it did approve the sale of shorter-range drones, including the IAI Bird-Eye mini-UAV (up to 10km range), and two tactical drones, the IAI I-View Mk 150 (up to 100km range) and the Searcher Mk II (up to 250km range). At a later point Russia decided against buying the I-View Mk 150, in an apparent belief that the drone had already become obsolete.

    In April 2009 Rosoboronexport and IAI signed an historic contract for a batch of various reconnaissance drones worth 53m dollars, to be delivered to the Russian MoD. Under the terms of the deal, IAI supplied an undisclosed number of Bird-Eye 400 and Searcher Mk II UAV sets, with three drones in each set. Final deliveries under the contract were made in late 2010.

    That same year Russia placed an order for an additional batch of the IAI Bird-Eye 400 and IAI Searcher Mk II UAVs worth about 50m dollars, bringing the overall value of the contracts with IAI to an estimated 100m dollars.6

    The drones were delivered to the Russian Defense Ministry’s R&D centers and the 1327th UAV Combat Training Center in Kolomna, Moscow Region (created in 2009 from the former 924th center in Yegoryevsk). Later in 2011 the Bird-Eye 400 mini-UAVs were transferred from the Kolomna center to Army reconnaissance units.7 Several Searcher Mr II drones were assigned to two special reconnaissance brigades which were formed in the North Caucasus in the past few years (there are plans for a total of 10 such Army brigades). The Russian operators of the IAI drones were trained by Israeli instructors at the Kubinka testing range near Moscow.8

    In addition to extensive testing, the Israeli drones were used in a number of large Army maneuvers in 2010-2012.

    In October 2010 the OPK Oboronprom corporation (a sister company of Rosoboronexport and part of the Rostekhnologii group) signed a 400m-dollar contract with IAI to assemble the Searcher Mk II and the Bird-Eye 400 tactical UAVs in Russia for the Ministry of Defense. The two drone models were given the local designations Forpost and Zastava, respectively. Russia initially chose the Kazan Helicopter Plant to host the new venture, but in 2011 that choice was changed in favor of the Urals Civil Aviation Plant (UZGA), an Oboronprom affiliate in Yekaterinburg.9 Some 10m dollars has been invested in the venture at UZGA. Tests of the first Forpost and Zastava drones assembled from Israeli components in Yekaterinburg were scheduled to begin in October-November 2012.10

    In 2011 the MoD placed an order with UZGA for a total of 27 Zastava sets (worth 1.329bn roubles) and 10 Forpost sets (worth 9.006bn roubles), for delivery in 2012-2014.11

    The size of the contract indicates that the Searcher Mk II and the Bird-Eye 400 will form the core of the Russian armed forces’ UAV fleet in their respective segments (tactical and mini-UAVs) for the coming decade. The Israeli technology will be dominant over that period, even though the MoD has also signed several contracts to develop indigenous Russian UAVs.

    Throughout the talks with the Israelis Russia continued to seek the permission to buy the MALE-class long-range IAI Heron drones, which have a range of 1,000-1,500 km and can stay aloft for 40-50 hours. To the best of our knowledge, however, Israel is refusing to budge - owing perhaps to pressure from the United States. The largest drone the Israeli government has approved for sale to Russia so far is the Searcher Mk II.

    Other possible options

    The large contracts signed by the Russian MoD with IAI have been a positive signal for other Israeli companies, who are also trying to win a share of the Russian UAV market. Two small Israeli drone makers, BlueBird Aero Systems ?? Innocon, opened their offices in Russia in 2011, although no actual deals have been signed with them, as far as we are aware.12

    The Russian military are said to have been slightly underwhelmed by their first experience with the IAI drones, both in terms of the UAVs’ operational capabilities and their ability to withstand the Russian climate.13 In 2012 the MoD was reportedly showing interest in the UAVs made by the already mentioned ADS. In December 2011 the Israeli company hosted a senior delegation from the ministry. The two sides were said to be negotiating a possible contract for Orbiter and Aerostar-series UAVs. In May 2012 these talks were continued on behalf of the MoD by OAO Oboronservis, a company consisting of former military repair plants and still subordinated to the ministry.14 The MoD was reportedly interested in three UAV types: the Orbiter 2 mini-drones, the Aerostar tactical UAVs, and the Skystar light unmanned observation aerostats. It wanted to buy eight drone sets of each type, 24 sets in total, to test them in action; each set includes two or three drones. The proposed contract is estimated at 53m dollars.15

    Development of indigenous Russian UAVs is currently one of the MoD’s top R&D spending priorities. Nevertheless, for the next several years the ministry will rely on importing mini-UAVs and tactical drones from Israel. It appears that foreign suppliers won’t sell Russia their large, long-endurance MALE and HALE-class drones for political reasons. In this particular segment the MoD will have to wait for indigenous R&D projects to deliver. Until then the Russian military will have no experience in operating such systems.

    It remains unclear whether and to what extent the MoD is satisfied with its relationship with IAI. One likely area of concern is access to advanced UAV technologies. For now, the UZGA plant merely assembles Israeli-designed drones from large components supplied from Israel itself. Some Israeli and Western commentators have expressed concerns that Russia will try to copy or reverse-engineer the drones it buys from Israel. That seems unlikely. Copying foreign technology would run counter to the long-established practices of Russian defense R&D. All the Russian defense technology developers seek to promote their own designs for reasons of prestige and access to financing, even where other approaches would be more effective. In the long run, therefore, Israeli UAVs will be gradually replaced by indigenous Russian technology. The drones currently being imported are meant primarily as demonstration units for Russian UAV developers and for the Russian military.

    1. INTERFAX-AVN, October 22, 2003.

    2. Yediot Ahronot, 19.09.2004.

    3. Haaretz, 12.08.2004.

    4. www.prleap.com/pr/46530.

    5. bmpd.livejournal.com/229482.html.

    6. In Strategic flight // Elspert-Ural, August 27, 2012.

    7. twower.livejournal.com/757224.html.

    8. Fedutinov D. UAVs: results and trends of 2011 // Natsionalnaya Oborona. No 12, 2011.

    9. In September 2012 control of UZGA was transferred from Oboronprom to United Engine Corporation (ODK).

    10. Production of UAVs begins in Sverdlovsk Region // Oblastnaya Gazeta (Yekaterinburg), September 6, 2012.

    11. 2011 Annual Report of OAO Urals Civil Aviation Plant // www.uwca.ru/about/official.

    12. Fedutinov D. UAVs: results and trends of 2011 // Natsionalnaya Oborona. No 12, 2011.

    13. shurigin.livejournal.com/349846.html.

    14. Ibid.

    15. Russia considers buying 50m dollars worth of Israeli UAVs // RIA Novosti, May 15, 2012.


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