ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — During an unexpected visit at the IDEX arms fair, Serbia’s president announced Feb. 21 that the country will buy UAE-made loitering munitions, shunning national vendors exhibiting here while showcasing their wares at the same time.

Aleksandar Vučić met with UAE ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan during the exhibition to make their latest partnership public for the procurement of Emirati loitering munitions. The leaders further toured the exhibiting four Serbian companies, two of which were showing off domestically produced drones.

One of the vendors, Belgrade-based PR-DC, is already selling to the Serbian and Emirati governments. The firm manufactures the Ika-Bomber that can be equipped with 12 60-millimeter aerial bombs consisting of an M73 mortar shell and fuse specially designed for drone operations. The multicopter aircraft is powered by lithium-based batteries.

Jovana Jevtić, marketing manager at PR-DC, told Defense News: “This is our second time exhibiting in the UAE, the first one having been at UMEX last year. In both instances, Sheikh Bin Zayed has shown great interest in our products and specifically in the IKA-Bomber that he came to see.”

The company was exhibiting for the first time its latest platform, part of the Ika Bomber series, a quadcopter loitering munition fitted with a mortar round. Officials would not disclose any of its capabilities, saying only the drone would become operational in roughly six months. The company expects to produce 10,000 Ika bomber series drones over the next five years.

Another Serbian firm displaying its capabilities was Yugoimport, with its OBAD armed drone that can be outfitted with various weapons for assault operations.

Over the last few years, Serbia has dedicated much of its efforts towards building a strong industrial base at home to increase manufacturing capacities in military drones.

The country is pursuing European Union membership while continuing to cultivate ties with Russia. Moscow is isolated by the rest of Europe for its brutal attack on Ukraine, according to a January 2023 report by the Carnegie Europe think tank.

When asked if the country’s latest decision to opt for foreign-made loitering munitions would undermine Serbia’s objective of localizing technology, Jevtić said local vendors have enough business as it is.

“Many Gulf countries have already approached us regarding our platforms – Serbia and the UAE are long-standing partners and I don’t see that commitment as negatively affecting our national market,” she said.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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