Israel and Russia drone deal
A couple of days ago we reported how Russia had bowed to Israeli pressure not to supply MIG-31′s to Syria. It appears as if the inducement to cease the Syria shipment was not a case of Russia diplomatic largesse, but rather so as to obtain access to Israeli drone aircraft technology. Under the $50 million deal, Israel Aerospace Industries will supply Russia with UAV’s including the Bird-Eye 400 mini, the I-view MK150 tactical, and the Searcher Mk II medium-range UAV. Russia saw the effectiveness of these drones when it had to combat them in its recent conflict in Georgia. The fact that this technology had been sold to Georgia by Israel was a bone of great contention. However, it appears in diplomacy and politics, this was only a temporary spat, and one easily made up by writing a similar deal with Moscow.
The scale of the Israeli arms exporting industry is often under appreciated, We reported that “…Israel is the third largest arms exporter [at the time of the report] in the world. In 2006, for example, Israel exported $4.2 Billion worth of arms to other countries.”
The Israel-Russian contract does not come without criticism from some quarters in Israel that have a historic distrust of Russia, and suspect that the drones may be reverse-engineered in Russia, and the technology end up in the hands of Israel’s enemies, such as Iran. Time will tell, but for now Russia has what it wants, and ironically only had to sacrifice its own Syrian military contract as a price for access. Russia obviously feels that this cost is not too much to advance its own interests:
Russia’s interest in Israeli drones surfaced in late 2008 following the war in Georgia, during which Tbilisi operated Israeli-made drones. At the time, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau, visited Moscow and received assurances that Russia would not sell the S300 defense missile system to Iran, and would consider halting the sale of MiG-31s to Syria.
Russia was supposed to sell eight MiG-31s to Syria, according to a report in the Kommersant newspaper. The $500m. deal was signed in early 2007, but work on the project was halted in April.
The contract was supposed to be the first export deal for the MiG-31E, a heavy twin-engine interceptor capable of flying at nearly three times the speed of sound and simultaneously firing at several targets at ranges of up to 180 km.
The aircraft was designed in the 1980s for tackling low-flying cruise missiles and other difficult targets- Israel to speed up UAV order to Russia | Israel | Jerusalem Post