India’s “Eurasia Times” reported on March 16 that Russia used “Israel-origin” drones to carry out missions in Ukraine against the Bayraktar TB-2 drone used in Kyiv.
The Russian Forpost-R drone is derived from Israel’s Searcher II drone and is made in Russia for attack and reconnaissance missions, the report said. On March 13, the Russian Ministry of Defense released a video showing an armed Forpost-R drone taking off from a runway before destroying a Ukrainian multiple rocket launcher (MLRS). There are also videos circulating on social media showing Russian drones wreaking havoc on Ukrainian troops and their equipment.
On March 11, a UAV of this type was first spotted during the conflict in Ukraine. Photos of the wreckage of a Russian drone also appeared on social media. A nameplate bearing the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) logo can be seen on the wreckage.
Forpost is a reconnaissance drone manufactured by the Ural Civil Aviation Factory (UZGA) in Yekaterinburg under a license from the Israeli Searcher II drone. Russia received the license in 2015. However, when relations between the West and Russia deteriorated, Israel bowed to U.S. pressure in 2016 to stop sending components to Russia.
The Israeli decision prompted the Russian Ministry of Defense to launch a program to localize the Forpost drone. The development of an armed variant of the drone was prioritized.
In January 2017, the president of UZGA stated that they would provide a domestically upgraded version of the Forpost drone in 2019. In August 2019, the Russian Ministry of Defense released a video of the Forpost-R drone. Russia claims that the testing phase of the Forpost-R drone has ended and it will enter service in 2020.
The new drones are equipped with Russian-made APD-85 piston engines, optoelectronic systems, electronics and data link systems, and work on domestic software, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
The body of the Forpost-R is reinforced for added durability. The drone has a maximum battery life of 18 hours, a take-off weight of 500 kg, an upper flight altitude of about 20,000 feet, and a maximum range of about 400 kilometers.
The Russian Ministry of Defense and UZGA signed an agreement in February 2020 to purchase 10 new Forpost-R drones. A Forpost-R drone is shown at the ARMY-2021 defense expo in Kubinka, Russia, in August 2021. It is armed with two 9K135 anti-tank missiles.
During exercise Zapad-2021 in September 2021, a Forpost-R was seen in action armed with two KAB-20 guided bombs, one under each wing. The Forpost-R shown in the Russian Defense Ministry video appears to be armed with the same bomb.
In addition to the 9M133 and KAB-20, the Forpost-R can also be armed with various unguided bombs. The drone is said to have a payload of up to 120kg.