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Serbia Looks to Join Spanish Surveillance Drone Program

MILAN — Serbian officials have confirmed that the country, one of the largest military drone operators in the Balkans, is looking to join the Airbus-led surveillance drone program SiRTAP, already planned to be acquired by Spain and Colombia.

During a recent guest appearance on a national television station, Serbian Assistant Minister of Defense for Material Resources Nenad Miloradovic confirmed that the country is exploring industrial cooperation opportunities with Airbus for Belgrade to partake in the effort.

The project, led by Airbus Spain, aims to produce a tactical unmanned aerial vehicle designed for intelligence gathering and surveillance. Although the drone is currently still in a pre-design phase, the Spanish MoD recently approved funds nearing $542 million from its defense budget to invest into the program and is looking to acquire a total of 27 SiRTAPs.

Serbia has previously signaled interest in the program, but it remains too early to tell in what capacity it would be joining the initiative.

“Serbia has experience with producing its own Pegaz combat drone and now operating the CH Chinese series [CH-92 and CH-95] as well,” Peter Voinovich, editor-in-chief of Serbian aviation news portal TangoSix, told Defense News. “Hence, some capabilities are there. This could possibly be a joint venture for manufacturing and export but, naturally for Serbia to be one of the prospective customers [of SiRTAP].”

The Serbian Ministry of Defense could not be reached for comment.

At the Madrid Feria Internacional de Defensa y Seguridad (FEINDEF) exhibition held in May, Airbus officials noted that although the ambition was to produce 90% of SiRTAP’s components in Spain, due to the fast-track of the program, they may have to go with non-Spanish suppliers in some instances.

Cost is expected to play into those decisions, as one of the drone’s premises is that it will be affordable for air forces with lower budgets wishing to gain advanced capabilities.

The collapsible design of SiRTAP drones implies that troops will ultimately be able to transport it by air in transport aircraft such as the C-295, which Serbia has contracted Airbus for two models to be delivered later this year.

Source : Defense