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23 Mar 17. Saudi Arabia to build Chinese UAVs. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) announced on 16 March that its president and the chairman of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) had signed a partnership agreement covering the manufacture of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The KACST did not provide further details of the agreement, which was one of several announced during a visit by King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud to China aimed at developing a strategic relationship between the two countries. Ali Mohammed al-Ghamdi, the CEO of the Taqnia Aeronautics Company, a subsidiary of the Saudi technology development organisation Taqnia, has previously stated on Twitter that an agreement has been signed with China Aerospace Long-March International (ALIT) to manufacture members of the CH family of UAVs in Saudi Arabia. He said the Saudi-made UAVs would be for both military and civilian purposes and would be marketed to other countries in the region. ALIT promotes CASC products, including the CH series of UAVs, to foreign customers. Saudi Arabia confirmed during the induction ceremony for the Royal Saudi Air Force’s (RSAF) new F-15SA multirole fighters in February that it already has Chinese UAVs in service. A photograph emerged from the event showing what appeared to be a more sophisticated version of the CASC CH-4 medium-altitude long-endurance UAV than the one previously displayed by the Iraqi military. It had a bulge on top of its nose that could accommodate a satellite communications antenna and was displayed with what appeared to be AR-1 laser-guided missiles and FT-9 guided bombs, which are both CASC products that are also used with Iraq’s CH-4s. CASC unveiled the larger CH-5 during Airshow China in November 2016. The company’s promotional information states that it has a maximum take-off weight of 2,600kg with a 900kg payload, and an endurance of 30 hours when not carrying weapons. (Source: IHS Jane’s)
23 Mar 17. Russia Developing New UAV Based on IAI Searcher. Russia is to develop a new unmanned air vehicle based on the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Searcher 2 that was built under licence by a local company.
Dubbed Forpost-M, the design will carry some Russian-developed payloads and datalinks. Russian sources say that some local companies have already received work orders to supply the required systems, and indicate that the United Instrument Making Corporation Rostek will be the lead contractor.
Sources say the improved UAV will be able to communicate not only with a ground control station, but directly with other aircraft, including helicopters, enabling their crews to assess information gathered using its sensors and relay real-time data to ground or airborne forces.
In April 2009, Moscow bought its first batch of UAVs from IAI, via a $54m package including BirdEye 400s and Searcher 2s. Late the same year, it ordered a further 36 aircraft worth $100m. A third deal, valued at $400m, was signed in October 2010 with the Israeli company, with UAVs having been assembled in Russia since early 2012 and deliveries to the Russian military starting in 2014.
Russian sources say another deal was signed in late 2015, covering an army order totalling $320m.
Moscow has made several attempts to buy more advanced UAVs from Israel, but its efforts have been blocked by Washington. The incursion of an Israeli-made UAV into Israeli airspace from inside Syria on 17 July 2016 – believed to have been a Russian-operated Searcher 2 – has provided the US authorities with another reason to block future sales of such equipment to Moscow.
Two Raytheon Patriot surface-to-air missiles were launched at the UAV immediately after it was detected, but both missed their target. A third attempt to shoot it down, this time using an air-to-