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By Christian Wolmar
Russia looks to the skies
In 2007, Russia's
But in 2010, Dmitrii Sudakov, a journalist, quoted an official that 'from a technical point of view' Russian UAVs were outclassed by foreign designs. After spending
Interviewed by Voice of Russia, Gennady Yevstafiev, a retired lieutenant general of the
In 2008, in its war with Georgia, Russia had been put at a disadvantage by Georgia's Israeli-made Hermes drones. Soon afterwards, Russia bought its own Israeli drones, spending around
Air Force Commander Alexander Zelin recently told journalists that Russia was acquiring combat drones that should be in service in 2020. But a source in the defence industry told Novosti in June that the first Russian-developed strike UAVs would be in service by the end of 2014. In August, General Anatoly Zhikharev, Moscow's long-range aviation commander, explained to Novosti that drones would not be combat-ready before 2040, 20 years after US plans for jet-propelled armed UAVs.
Russia's old Tupolev heavy bombers seriously need replacement, and this will be partly met by strike drones, thereby carrying implications for arms treaties. Russia has also revealed an intention to develop underwater drones 'for special tasks'. And back in June, Dmitry Rogozin, the Deputy Prime Minister, said that negotiations were underway with Israel to cooperate on jointly producing an UAV which could also be sold to other countries.
Despite the delays in developing serviceable military drones, unmanned aircraft are not new to the Russian authorities in policing. In
Russian TV has been keen to impress on citizens the desirability of UAVs in tackling crime. In November Channel One showed Andrei Nikolaev, a
Clearly, Russian leaders are keen to catch up with the world's leading manufacturers. What cannot be produced fast enough can be bought. As one observer put it, 'the Russian drone programme remains pragmatic'.
Professor Mary Buckley is a Fellow and Director of Studies in Human, Social and Political Science at Hughes Hall, Cambridge
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