How many spy drones did Russia purchase from Israel?



Back in April, intelNews reported on a $53 million agreement between Russia and Israel to provide Moscow with three Israeli-made intelligence-gathering drones. Much was made at the time of the purchase of those unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which was interpreted as an indirect admission by Moscow that its armed forces severely lacked aerial intelligence. The purchase of the three Israel-made drones was reportedly designed to cover immediate needs, while the Russians were working on a plan to start building their own UAVs. It turns out, however, that neither the Israelis nor the Russians were quite upfront in their public announcement of the deal. Last April the two sides said that Russia would receive “three unmanned aircraft” from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). In reality, $53 million is much too high a fee to purchase just three UAVs. This puzzled Washington, which does not want to see Russia improve its aerial reconnaissance capabilities. The US Pentagon thus sought –and subsequently received– assurances from Israel that it was not planning to sell Moscow its state-of-the art, super-expensive Heron UAV model. But the Americans were correct to be suspicious of the high cost of the deal. Russian media now reports that the Russians will be receiving, not three, but twelve UAVs for their $53 million. IntelNews hears that this has angered some US Pentagon officials, who suspected all along that something was not quite right in the initial announcement. Meanwhile, Israeli defense officials have made sure to supply government-friendly Israeli newspapers, such as The Jerusalem Post, with anonymous assurances to Washington that the twelve UAVs sold to Moscow will not include Israel’s “most advanced unmanned aerial vehicles”. Instead, the Russians will be receiving IAI’s “low-tier UAVs”, including “the I-view MK 150 tactical UAV and the Searcher MK II medium-range UAV”, according to the “anonymous” sources. Meanwhile, Vyacheslav Dzirkaln, deputy head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, has revealed that “the main goal of the deal with Israel was to study the technology in order to build the drones domestically”. After all, the Russian military says it requires “up to 100 UAVs and at least 10 guidance systems to ensure effective battlefield reconnaissance in case of any military conflict”.

About intelNews
Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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