Russia does not need Israeli assistance to make progress in the development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), including military drones, the head of a Russian UAV production company said on Thursday.
A senior Israeli defense source quoted in Flight International said earlier that Israel may tear up much of the unprecedented military cooperation deal it signed with Russia at the start of this month due to anger over Moscow's decision to supply Yakhont naval missiles to Syria.
"In the next two or three years, there will be a breakthrough in the Russian UAV market regardless of the Israeli position on this issue," Vladimir Verba, the director general of the Vega company.
Verba said his company had developed a comprehensive UAV development program until 2025, which had been approved by the majority of its customers, including the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Interior Ministry.
He also said Vega had been developing strike and reconnaissance drones for the Russian military in cooperation with Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).
The Russian military stressed the need to provide the Armed Forces with advanced reconnaissance systems in the wake of a brief military conflict with Georgia in August 2008, when the effectiveness of Russian military operations was severely hampered by the lack of reliable intelligence.
According to various estimates, the Russian military needs up to 100 UAVs and at least 10 guidance and control systems to ensure effective battlefield reconnaissance.
The Russian Defense Ministry has previously expressed dissatisfaction with locally manufactured UAVs, and decided to buy them from Israel.
According to the ministry, some 50 Russian military servicemen are undergoing training in the use of Israeli-built UAVs and that a total of twelve have been bought.
Russia has reportedly signed two UAV contracts with Israel. Under the first contract, signed in April 2009, Israel delivered two Bird Eye 400 systems (worth $4 million), eight I View MK150 tactical UAVs ($37 million) and two Searcher Mk II multi-mission UAVs ($12 million).
The second contract was for the purchase of 36 UAVs, worth a total of $100 million, to be delivered later this year.
Russia and Israel have also been negotiating the establishment of a joint $300-million venture to produce UAVs.