Yesterday Aviaport.ru wrote that Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov, his First Deputies, Vladimir Popovkin and Nikolay Makarov, Air Forces CINC, Aleksandr Zelin, and industry representatives attended a demonstration of Russian and Israeli UAVs at Kubinka on 10 March.
The systems shown included the Israeli mini Bird Eye 400 and medium-range Searcher MkII, and also an unnamed Russian mini selected in comparative testing last fall.
Aviaport.ru says Russian systems were only on static display, but Israeli ones were actively demonstrated. The Searcher MkII performed a six-hour continuous flight in the vicinity of Kubinka at an altitude of five km, relaying imagery to its ground station in real time.
Israeli drones arrived in Russia last year, and operators and technicians were trained, but they are only just starting to be used. A Defense Ministry source tells Aviaport.ru these UAVs are already receiving high marks from the military.
UAV.ru’s editor-in-chief Denis Fedutinov thinks new pilotless aircraft will be based at the 924th Combat Training and Personnel Retraining Center. The Center’s personnel previously used only Russian-made UAVs, the most modern of which was the 1980s-vintage Pchela. Fedutinov says:
“Compared with them [Pchela], the impression of Israeli systems will be like switching from a Zhiguli to a Mercedes.”
Nevertheless, according to Fedutinov, the “door isn’t closed” for Russian developers. The tests of the mini-UAV last year showed an increase in quality of Russian systems, and there was a promise to buy several dozen Russian systems for experimental use in the Ground Troops.
The tactical-class segment still isn’t occupied, and there are two Russian contenders — VEGA’s Tipchak and Kronshtadt’s Dozor-100. The latter is reportedly preferred given Popovkin’s negative comments about the former.
Fedutinov thinks when it comes to larger systems there’s still a possibility for cooperation with the Israelis, and there is Russian interest in the Heron system. But decisions on this issue are essentially political.
After meeting his French counterpart in Paris — mainly about the Mistral acquisition, Defense Minister Serdyukov declared his interest in procuring all types of UAVs, from reconnaissance to strike variants, according to ITAR-TASS. Serdyukov stated:
“At present, we’re studying the line-up of Israeli pilotless aircraft in detail. As is known, ‘Helicopters of Russia’ has agreed with the Israelis on establishing an SP [joint venture] to produce such systems.”
Serdyukov added that a UAV operator training center will be set up soon:
“Where this center will be located isn’t decided yet. These systems will be part of the Ground Troops.”
He said the Defense Ministry wants to buy all types, from light to heavy UAVs. Russia is also interested in the foreign practice of using satellites to control unmanned reconnaissance and strike aircraft, Serdyukov said.