Russia is shopping around for Israeli UAVs. Russia has been building UAVs
for several decades, but has not achieved the kind of performance found in
Israeli and American UAVs. One model the Russians are probably interested in is
the Israeli Heron TP UAVs. Equipped with a powerful (1,200 horsepower) turbo
prop engine, the 4.6 ton aircraft can operate at 45,000 feet. That is, above
commercial air traffic, and all the air-traffic-control regulations that
discourage, and often forbid, UAV use at the same altitude as commercial
aircraft. The Heron TP has a one ton payload, enabling it to carry sensors that
can give a detailed view of what's on the ground, even from that high up. The
endurance of 36 hours makes the Heron TP a competitor for the U.S. MQ-9 Reaper
(or Predator B).
line of UAVs has been around longer than the Predators, and have a comparable
track record. India and European nations are also considering the Heron TP,
which would be suitable for maritime patrol as well. Thus the Heron TP would be
a low cost competitor to the Global Hawk, which has far more range than most
nations need for their naval reconnaissance aircraft. Best of all, the Heron
line of UAVs has an even better pedigree than U.S. aircraft like the Predator.
lost interest in UAVs after Vietnam, while in Israel, work proceeded. And UAVs
figured prominently in the spectacular Israeli aerial victory over the Bekaa
Valley in 1982. Using UAVs in cooperation with their warplanes, Israel was able
to shut down the Syrian Air Force (and destroy 86 aircraft) in a few days.
Israel pioneered the use of UAVs for real-time surveillance, electronic warfare
and decoys. But in the U.S., there was either no interest or some inexplicably
botched UAV development projects. Americans wondered how the Israelis did it
while the Department of Defense continued to screw up attempts to create useful
with some urging (and ridicule) from Congress, the Department of Defense began
to buy UAVs from Israel. The Navy bought the Israeli Pioneer UAV, which is
still in use. Many of these Israeli UAVs (plus some newly developed U.S. ones)
were used in the 1991 Gulf War. There weren't that many of them, but the army
and Marines noted that the Air Force and Navy were stingy with answering
requests for recon missions. This made the ground troops aware of how they
could create their own Air Force of UAVs. All of a sudden, the Army and Marines
were back in the UAV development business. This time they were serious and a
number of successful UAVs were developed. The Predator entered service in 1995.
Russia is in
a situation similar to that of the United States in the 1970s. The Russian UAVs
have short duration (a few hours) and reliability problems. Then there's the
matter of Russia exporting high performance, long range S-300 surface-to-air
(SAM) anti-aircraft missiles to Iran. Israel has been seeking to find a way to
block this deal. Helping Russia out in the UAV department may be part of a deal
to keep the S-300s out of Iran.