According to the Facebook page of Dnipro-1 Special Forces Battalion, Russian Forpost type drone was shot down near Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine by the servicemen of Dnipro-1 during the special operation, conducted jointly by Dnipro-1 and the Center for the Special Operations.
Forpost drone is an authorised Russian replica of the Searcher Mk II drone, designed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in 1980-ies. It is the second Russian Forpost drone, shot down during May, 2015. Shooting down of the previous Forpost was reported by Israeli Channel 9, broadcasting in Russian language, with the reference to Natan Chazin, Ukrainian businessman of Israeli origin and co-founder of Aerorozvidka volunteer project, specializing in drone reconnaissance for the Ukrainian Army.
IAI, the designer and maker of original Searcher Mk II drone is Israeli corporation, owned by the government of Israel. According to the analysis by the Defence Industry Daily, Russia signed $53 million deal with Israel back in June 2009 to procure 2 Bird Eye 400 systems ($4 million), 8 I-View MK150 tactical UAV systems ($37 million) and 2 Searcher Mk II multi-mission UAV systems ($12 million). Therefore, the price of one original Searcher Mk II to Russia was $6 million.
At the moment of deal’s closing Vyacheslav Dzilkaln, the deputy head of the Russian Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation, did not hide that Russia’s original intention was to study and reverse engineer Israeli technology in order to start building these drones in Russia.
In 2010 Russia proceeded to buy another 36 drones. And in the end of 2010 IAI and Russia’s Oboronprom state-owned corporation reached an agreement to procure assembly elements and consulting services from IAI in exchange for Russia’s refusal to sell S-300 missile complexes to Iran and, possibly, other temporary political concessions by the government of Mr. Putin. This way Mr. Dzilkaln’s promise was fulfilled and Russia started making its own Searcher Mk II drones, whom Russians called ‘Forpost’.
Searcher II can be used not only for surveillance of the enemy positions, but for artillery fire adjustment and real time artillery fire coordination. Exactly this drone unit was manufactured by Ural Works of Civil Aviation [Уральский завод гражданской авиации or УЗГА], a subsidiary of Oboronprom, allegedly in 2013. Facebook user Ivan Vidyakin provided photo of a drone with the same factory ID No. 923. The unit was manufactured in Yekaterinburg on a license from IAI. According to the factory plate on the drone’s directional antenna, the antenna unit for this drone was manufactured by IAI in 2013.
So Russia is supplying drones to pro-Russian separatists who are killing Ukrainians in Donbas. What is more important: Russia is also supplying its military personnel to use these drones as separatists have no skills to use such sophisticated military equipment. Earlier this May InformNapalm published OSINT investigation, exposing VK profiles of the contract servicemen for the so-called ‘Drones company’ of Russia’s 19th Motorized Rifle Brigade (military unit No. 20634, based in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia-Alania), which is a part of the 58th combined army of the Southern military command of the Russian army.
According to the Official Procurement Portal of the Russian Government, namely electronic auction № 0173100004515000484, dated April 17, 2015, Forpost drones were procured by the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation for the following military units:
unit No. 20924 (Kolomna, Moscow Oblast, Russia) — 2 units;
unit No. 30866 (Chernyakhovsk, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia) — 2 units;
unit No. 44936 (Budyonovsk, Stavropol Krai, Russia) — 2 units;
unit No. 49324 (Severomorsk, Murmansk Oblast, Russia) — 2 units;
unit No. 69262 (Yelizovo, Kamchatka Krai, Russia) — 2 units.
Nikolay Belokobylenko, one of the ‘heroes’ of our abovementioned OSINT investigation of VK profiles of 19th Motorized Rifles and the contract serviceman of the military unit No. 20634, was a trainee of the Training center for specialists of drone aircraft complexes, based in Kolomna, Moscow Oblast, military unit No. 20924. Right, exactly the unit, named first by the electronic auction № 0173100004515000484, dated April 17, 2015.
So Mr. Belokobylenko was trained in Kolomna to use Russian drones, manufactured under Israeli license to be then sent ‘on vacation’ to help Russian artillery and MLRS units with killing Ukrainians in Donbas.
This article is based on combined English translation of InformNapalm articles by Irakli Komakhidze, Krmvictory and Roman Burko. See article 1 and article 2 for source texts. Translated by Gennadiy Kornev.