Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Russia to purchase Israeli spy planes to its own detriment

Russia intends to purchase Israeli arms, particularly unmanned aircraft. The decision is based on Russia’s recent experience in South Ossetia, when the Russian army was left without reconnaissance planes. Nevertheless, the Russian defense industry has very good spy planes at its disposal, and they are not worse than those of Israel. The purchase of Israeli planes may lead to the fact that the countries of the East will refuse to purchase the products of the Russian defense industry.

Russia is ready to purchase foreign-made arms to the detriment of its own defense industry. A delegation of Russia’s defense ministry visited Israel at the end of November 2008 and conducted negotiations regarding the purchase of Israeli unmanned planes.

Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the Russian military’s General Staff, said that Russia would purchase spy planes from Israel if the Russian defense industry proves to be unable to make the planes that Russia needs. To put it in a nutshell, the official virtually questioned the capabilities of the Russian defense industry.

Spokespeople for the Russian-Israeli committee for military and technical cooperation neither confirmed nor rejected the information. The explanation followed from journalists of the Haaretz newspaper. Not only did they confirm the opportunity, they provided detailed information about the imminent deal. The contract is likely to be evaluated at $20 million. Thus, Russia may purchase from three to ten of such aircraft.

Russia’s top military officials paid attention to Israel’s Hermes-450 unmanned aircraft (made by Elbit Systems) during the five-day war with Georgia. The Israeli aircraft, which the Georgian army had, gave the country a great advantage in terms of obtaining the information about the enemy’s actions. Unlike Georgia, Russia was “blind” during the entire conflict and had to use old Tu-22 bombers for the same purpose. The problem would have most likely never surfaced if Georgia had not downed one of those bombers.

Alexander Khramchikhin, a specialist of the Institute of the Military and Political Analysis, believes that Russia lags far behind Israel in terms of unmanned aircraft technologies. “There is a large technological gap between Russia and Israel at this point. We have just a few of the outdated spy planes,” he told

Konstantin Sivkov, the first vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems said: “Russia must purchase Russian arms, no matter what the chief of the General Staff says. It is not about the higher price of the Israeli analogues of the Israeli defense technology. If the Russian defense industry has some problems it means that we must help the industry handle and solve those problems. Furthermore, the use of foreign arms can be restricted with special programs which exclude any possibility for the use of the weapons against this or that country. Russia may find itself eventually unarmed.”

On the other hand, the Israeli spy planes have a different data transmission system. In case Russia buys the planes, specialists will have to conduct a great amount of work to adapt the nation’s system to Israeli technologies.

Anatoly Tsyganok, a specialist from the Institute of Military and Political Analysis, believes that Russia will have to give up its GLONASS satellite navigation system because Israeli unmanned planes operate on the GPS system.

Russia has its own reconnaissance planes – Strizh, Reis and Pchela-1 – made by Tupolev and Yakovlev design bureaus. Other aircraft-building enterprises, including the world-famous MiG, develop their own unmanned technologies too. However, the Russian military administration believes that the country has no such technologies. It is worthy of note that Istrinsky Experimental Work conducted successful tests of its Istra-010 unmanned aircraft in December of 2008. The aircraft weighs only 4 kilos. Belarus has already purchased several of such spy planes. The company will test a new version (60 kilos) of the spy plane next year.

If Russia purchases Israeli spy planes, the deal may negatively affect the country’s possible contracts with Arab and Iranian partners.

Sergei Balmasov