Welcome to the arms industry

Israel could find itself buying weapons to defend itself against its own technologies.

Moscow was filled with missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and other weapons at the large weapons exhibition last month. Russia sought to display its impressive achievements, among other things, in copying technologies developed in Israel.

Last week, Western media sources reported that Iran succeeded in bypassing the Russian arms embargo and obtaining S300 antiaircraft missiles from one of the CIS countries. This scenario, however worrying it may be, did not surprise anyone who has followed the transformation of the Russian arms industry in recent years, from the sale of weapons as a means of achieving ideological goals, to an ideology of money at any price, which leaves even the most ardent capitalists of the West nostalgic for the days of the communist regime.

Almost everything in the Russian arsenal is available for sale, including latest generation technologies that were only recently adopted by the Russian Army itself. Russian arms manufacturers need a lot cash to say competitive, and if they have no decent government budgets, they make up the shortfall through exports.

This policy was on display at the 4th IDELF 2010 International Defense Exhibition of Land Forces last month in Moscow. One of the stated objectives of the exhibition was to "attract capital investment", and it therefore drew the attention not only of aficionados of future military technologies, but also army officers from rich totalitarian regimes.

The exhibition also provided not a few nightmares for those who might one day find themselves at the wrong end of these technologies in local and regional conflicts.

Iskander E SS26: Antiballistic missile missile

The focus of attention for many visitors at IDELF 2010 was the Russian Iskander E, which is classified as a tactical surface-to-surface missile. The missile's objective is to destroy weapons, command posts, communications centers, and airfields. The missile can carry out all these missions quite impressively, with a realistic range of 280 kilometers for the export version. It even complies with the restrictions of the International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (ICOC) and conventions against weapons of mass destruction because of its relatively limited range and single warhead configuration.

Nonetheless, what makes the Iskander E a strategic weapon is that it is an antiballistic missile missile, or in other words, a first strike weapon, designed to neutralize strategic anti-ballistic missile defense systems, such as Israel's Arrow and the US Patriot, leaving the enemy exposed to potential threats from strategic missiles with unconventional warheads.

The Russians have used the Iskander E as a deterrent, threatening to deploy it along the country's western border in response to NATO plans to deploy anti ballistic missile systems in Poland. The technological capabilities of the Iskander E also give weight to its purpose: the missile is fired from mobile launchers, such as trucks, and it is equipped with advanced computerized systems that automatically calculate the launch profile in advance. The missile therefore needs just four minutes of preparation for launch from a prepared position, or sixteen minutes while in motion, which makes it hard to locate and neutralize.

The Russian Army began deploying the Iskander E only four years ago, which has not prevented the Russian government from putting the missile up for sale. The list of interested customers not only includes countries like Iran and Syria, but Western-oriented countries, such as South Korea and Singapore.

Until recently, Russia lagged far behind in UAVs, but it has quickly narrowed the gap in the last couple of years. The method is a well-known one: buy advanced technologies from Western competitors who are happy to sell, then analyze, reverse engineer, and improve the technologies to build a glorious industry for both domestic sales and exports.

At IDELF 2010, Russia displayed some superb UAVs that resemble Israeli UAVs - and it is apparently no coincidence. A typical example is the new 421-20 UAV built by Zala Aero.

The 421-20 UAV can carry a 50-kilogram payload of optical, radar, and thermal sensors. It has a 400-kilometer range from the fuel tanks built in its six-meter wings. The UAV can deploy two gliding payloads with built-in autopilots capable of carrying 30 kilograms of supplies up to 25 kilometers, when released at 3,000 meters.

If anyone fears (justifiably) that advanced UAV technologies might end up in the wrong hands in Israel's zone of confrontation, he can find some solace in the latest anti-UAV missile technologies unveiled at IDELF 2010. Russia's military deficiencies against Western UAVs prompted it to invest heavily in developing the sector. One of the results is the slew of ground-to-air missiles with improved UAV interceptor capabilities.

Will Israel buy Russian UAV interceptor technology to shoot down hostile UAVs, whose technology was developed in Israel and copied by the Russians? Welcome to the arms industry.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on August 11, 2010

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2010

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