Russia has been utilising Israeli drone technology over the past decade, significantly enabling it to help defend the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad and keep him in power, an article by the Israeli news outlet Haaretz has reported.
According to the article by the US-based journalist Patrick Hilsman, Russia decided to bolster its presence in the growing UAV industry after discovering its inadequacy in its conflict with Georgia in 2008, when it lost a high number of aircraft to the Israeli drones which its opponents possessed.
In 2010, Israel m signed a $400 million deal to sell its Searcher II drones to Russia, which adapted the technology and license-produced it to result in its own 'Forpost' UAV. Russian air force operatives also subsequently took joint training and instruction in Israel in order to learn how to adequately operate the technology.
Despite the increasing perception of drones being armed and weaponised, most of them remain in use for reconnaissance purposes rather than defence, posing as tools to scout the battlefield from above and stalk opponents. That is exactly what the Forposts have been used for throughout Moscow's military presence in Syria, with them being classed as Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance – or ISR – drones.
They are not entirely detached from battle, though, as they pass on information and geolocation data to manned fighter jets which then efficiently and accurately drop explosive munitions onto the targets.
Such accuracy made possible by that technology, however, as the article explains, also gives significant evidence to the numerous reports over the years that Russia has deliberately been targeting and striking civilian infrastructure and hospitals in Syria. This is further evidenced by the fact that the Russian military recorded and streamed its aerial attacks in efforts to showcase its proficiency.
A key example of this was the footage of a double strike on a hospital in the northern Syrian city of Azaz in 2016, which was released by Russia's Ministry of Defence itself earlier this year. In an attempt to counter Armenia's accusation of the inadequacy of Russian military equipment in the Nagorno-Karabah conflict with Azerbaijan, Moscow unintentionally revealed its war crimes in Syria when the footage was geographically analysed and located.
The extent to which Israeli drone technology has served to keep Al-Assad in power in Syria, through the use of his ally Russia, is seen as an irony to many, especially considering the fact that Israeli air strikes in Syria have increased in frequency in recent years and continue to impede regime and Iranian targets within the country.