Israeli Drones Will No Longer Be Manufactured in Russia. USA-imposed Embargo.

Russia will have to suspend the assembly processes related to the Outpost UAV systems, license manufactured domestically, with the license being granted by Israel Aerospace Industries. Despite the efforts made by the Russians, the goal of which was to prolong the cooperation agreement within that scope, the negotiation process was held up, and the existing memorandum was suspended, following a decision made by the Israeli Ministry of Defence. 

According to Flightglobal, the Israeli authorities made a decision which imposed an embargo on the whole scope of collaboration within the framework of license assembly of the IAI UAV systems in Russia. The whole cooperation has been suspended, with an immediate effect. The decision was made by the Ministry of Defence of Israel, also as a result of the pressure imposed by the US administration. 

Moreover, the fact, that the Russians have been commonly using the Outpost UAV (license manufactured variant of the IAI Searcher-II system) in the operations over the territory of Ukraine, most probably also has contributed to the aforementioned steps taken by Tel Aviv. Several UAV systems of the type above were shot down by the ATO operation forces. Then, the wreckage was presented to the general public. The Israelis, at the end of 2014, had decided to suspend the negotiations pertaining to any new procurement contracts concerning the UAV systems for the Russian Armed Forces, whatsoever. This has been done in the light of the Ukrainian crisis. However, the earlier agreements still retained their validity (including the ones covering provision of maintenance support services).

The Russian UZGA facility (Uralskiy Zavod Grazhdanskoy Aviatsii) in Nizhny Tagil assembled at least 20 Outpost (Searcher II) UAV systems, in line with the agreement, along with, probably, 30 mini-class BirdEye 400 UAV systems.

The information suggesting that cooperation was suspended contradicts the declarations made by the Russians. Not only did the Russian industry ask the Israelis to resume the talks, last year the UZGA facility announced a plan of modernization related to the Outpost system. The upgrade covered the implementation of the GLONASS system, along with an encrypted Russian communications suite and IFF devices. The modernized variant is going to be known as Outpost-R. This derivative system is also expected to constitute a starting point for a completely new design.

According to the Russian “Vedmomosti” outlet, the Russian Ministry of Defence concluded an agreement last year (the value of which is defined as ca. USD 300 million, regarding the potential procurement of another 10 Outpost Systems, each one of which includes a control station and 3 UAVs). At the beginning of April 2016, Russian Deputy Minister of Defence Yuriy Borisov announced a procurement plan pertaining to acquisition of yet another 30 UAV systems, within the upcoming decade.

If the information related to the fact that a complete embargo has been imposed on Russia, within the scope of the access to the Israeli UAV technology, then the above plans are dubious, at best. Obviously, there is a chance that the Russians have already gathered knowledge and potential sufficient to continue the production process autonomously, breaching the Israeli licensing agreement. One cannot rule out a situation in which so called modernization of the Outpost system would mean that the key Israeli components of the suite are replaced by their Russian counterparts.  

According to the available information, the Outpost UAV platform offers flight endurance of 15-20 hours. The aircraft is also capable of operating at distances of 250-300 kilometres from the take-off location. Payload capacity is defined as 100 kilograms. As it has been shown by examination of the airframes that were shot down in Donbas by the Ukrainians, the UAV uses numerous Russian components and elements available on the civil market not covered by the embargo limitations.