ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Russian defense exports agency Rosoboronexport has said it wants to establish drone production facilities in the Middle Eastern region, including the UAE, as Moscow attempts to grab market share in a region it deems receptive to the idea.
State-owned Russian media agency TASS cited the export agency as saying it would make overtures to regional governments at the UMEX 2024 conference here, held here on Jan. 23-25, singling out the show’s host nation in particular.
“Company representatives will speak about broad capabilities in the field of industrial cooperation to localize drone production on the territory of the customer, hold joint work to create prospective samples with the use of Russian competences in their design,” TASS reported.
In the last two years, Russia’s military-industrial complex has been focused on supporting the invasion of Ukraine, which has now reached a standstill with roughly one-fifth of the country occupied, according to analysts. The rate of equipment consumed on the battlefield has left little for Moscow to export.
The Middle East recorded an increase in Russian arms purchases before the Moscow’s war against Ukraine. Since then, however, governments here seem to be leaning more towards Western weapons.
In the unmanned systems sector, the Gulf region has looked to a greater extent to Turkey as a key supplier. In July, Saudi Arabia placed an order for Akinci combat drones, which the Turkish manufacturer Baykar referred to as the “biggest sale” to date between the two nations. This contract brought the number of Gulf customers of Baykar drones to four, along with Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE.
On Jan 18. the Emirati defense conglomerate Edge Group also announced that it had integrated its guided bomb onto the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone.
It remains unclear which specific drones models Moscow wants to see made here.
“The ones that people want – the Lancet and most Orlans – are not available for export, and the ones that are available – KUB loitering munition and Orion – receive a lukewarm reception,” Sam Bendett, an analyst specializing in Russian military capabilities at the Center for Naval Analyses, said.
However, one candidate could be the Zala ISR done, he added, using the acronym for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
Zala Aero Group, the manufacturer, is present at the drone show here, though the company does not have any aircraft on public display, a trend the vendor has continued from previous trade shows.
When asked about the prospect of Russian drone manufacturing in the Middle East, and whether any of their platforms may be included, a Zala representative said the company was unaware of these reports.
“It is the first time we are hearing about this,” the representative told Defense News.
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.