The Buzz

Can Russian UAVs Close the Gap with America or Israel?

It’s likely that with increasing attention that Russian military establishment is finally giving to various unmanned systems, the country’s Armed Forces may eventually start getting their long-planned and awaited combat UAVs. Likewise, Russian military will continue to stock up on smaller ISR drones, with nearly 2000 already in service. However, that would hardly qualify as “closing the gap” or even achieving parity down range with countries where unmanned systems development received tremendous amount of financial, industrial, intellectual and political support. What Rogozin may have meant is that even with Russia’s limitations with building its UAVs, its military has achieved battlefield successes that have surprised military observes worldwide. Rogozin’s statement can also be interpreted as highlighting the fact that as far as Russia’s military is concerned, the “parity” with American and Israeli UAVs means not the same technological sophistication of Western drones but the ability to as effectively achieve set goals with smaller UAV numbers as Americans or Israelis tend to do with more numerous or more sophisticated machines. Either way, next several years will be pivotal for Russia’s work with its military unmanned aerial vehicles, as many projects have promised to finally produce working models for service entry between 2018-2020. Time – and Russia’s handling of it state armaments orders - will tell if Rogozin’s words will translate into working solutions for the Russian military.

Samuel Bendett is a researcher at the CNA Corporation and a foreign affairs contributor to the blog. Previously he worked at the National Defense University on emerging and disruptive technologies for government response in crisis situations. The views expressed here are his own.

Image: United States Air Force