At the time of writing, Israel’s medium-range Searcher Mk II represents the most advanced and capable unmanned arial vehicle(UAV) in the Russian military service. It was acquired back in the autumn 2010, when a landmark 400 million dollar deal was signed between Russia and Israel. Ultimately, Russian Yekaterinburg based Ural Civil Aviation Plant(UZGA) was to assemble the Searcher Mk II UAVs using components manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries(IAI) and supply them to Russian Aerospace Forces under a different name – Forpost. Forpost, meaning outpost in English, made its maiden flight in January 2012.
In years that followed all was going pretty well for Forpost, but then came the 2014 conflict in Ukraine, and the US-Russia relations suffered as a result. Fully aware of the implications on the Israeli deal, Russian genshtab was feeling rather anxious regarding the prospects of its most capable and much needed UAV. On 1 June, 2014, unnamed Israeli official spoke to DefenseNews.com stating: “We(Israel) could gain billions of dollars(in defence deals) from Russia…. We obviously gained greatly from Russia’s decision to cancel a huge S300PMU contract with Iran…. [but] We need to be concerned about US concerns. There are other considerations at play. Israel does a lot of defence business in former Eastern Bloc countries, and that business could suffer if relations with Russia become too close. After Russia’s annexation of Crimea from the Ukraine, the impact could be felt throughout NATO.. it’s a delicate balancing act all around”.
Then as recently as 13 January, 2017, Director of Moscow based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies(CAST), Ruslan Pukhov, stated that: “Israelis have already informed us(Russia), that they will not be able to supply us with the next batch(of components) because of formal or informal red light from the United States”.
At present, project Forpost is pretty much stuck and Israel is already offering the modernised version Mk. III for export, so Mk. II, that is Forpost, is quickly becoming outdated. But there are some prospects on the horizon. Gradual indigenisation and modernisation(article in Russian) has long been on the cards and yesterday, Russian news agency TASS, published a piece(in Russian) to that effect. The article states that the UZGA head has reported to Sergey Shoigu, Russian defence minister, that new improved version of the Forpost UAV, made of exclusively domestic components, will be ready for delivery in 2019.
Main mage: ©Denis Fedutinov @ uav.ru
Short video of Seregy Shoigu’s visit to Ural Civil Aviation Plant on 20 January, 2017.