Advanced Israeli Drones Purchased by Russia Discovered in Syria, Aiding Assad, Iran, Hezbollah Forces
For the first time since Russia became engaged in the Syrian civil war, it has emerged that President Vladimir Putin’s army has been making use of Israeli technology and weapons in the attempt to preserve the regime of President Bashar Assad, Israel’s Channel 2 reported on Monday.
Aerial photos revealed that Israeli drones are being used by the pro-regime axis — comprised of Russia, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iran and Hezbollah — against rebel forces in Syria. The unmanned planes, manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), were purportedly sold to Russia as a way of keeping Moscow from selling the S-300 missile-defense systems to Iran – a maneuver that did not pay off, judging by recent announcements that the delivery is going ahead as planned.
The drones were seen around a military base near the Syrian port city of Latakiya. The significance of this discovery, according to Channel 2, is that companies interested in exporting military equipment to Russia must now re-submit requests for authorization to conduct business negotiations and receive export permits. These requests will be handled by a special technology committee.
The decision to sell the advanced drones to Russia came after much deliberation, according to the Channel 2 report. It was a deal worth some $100 million, which was made more than five years ago, enabling the Russian Air Force to purchase 12 “Searcher II” drones, described by the IAI as tactical planes for reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering. The drone is capable of remaining in the air for approximately 15 hours, and can reach a range of 250 kilometers, at an altitude of 20,000 feet. It can be equipped with day-and-night cameras or radar, providing photographs even through clouds.
According to Channel 2, the United States put heavy pressure on Israel not to go through with the deal. As a result, in December, the Israeli Defense Ministry’s supervisory division for defense exports sent a memo to all defense industries, informing them that Russia’s status has been changed from “regular country” to “special country.”