April 16, 2013 RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, (UPI)
Saudi Arabia reportedly has turned to South Africa's state-owned Denel Dynamics defense company to help Riyadh develop its own killer UAV program.
Saudi Arabia, refused armed unmanned aerial vehicles by Washington, reportedly has turned to South Africa's state-owned Denel Dynamics defense company to help Riyadh develop its own armed UAV program.
The Saudi Defense Ministry declined comment on the report by Intelligence Online, publishing from Paris. Denel also refused to comment.
But Riyadh has for some time been seeking to acquire missile-carrying UAVs and Denel has been dropping strong hints it was looking for customers in the Middle East, Asia and Africa for an armed version of its Seeker 400 drone.
That's developed from Denel's Seeker II surveillance/reconnaissance craft, which was recently sold to the United Arab Emirates, which has a powerful air force and an emergent defense industry, through a joint venture with the state investment fund Tawazun.
The Emirates' air force signed a $197 million deal with the U.S. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in February for an unspecified number of Predator XP UAVs, the first foreign sale of that variant.
But these craft aren't intended to carry weapons for offensive operations, in line with U.S. policy regarding foreign sales of such technology.
The Saudis asked Washington for Predator MQ-1 craft, which are used by the U.S. Air Force and the CIA and carry Lockheed's AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
The Americans, reluctant to provide such systems to other states, refused but are reported to have supplied Predators specifically engineered to make it extremely difficult to mount weapons.
Intelligence Online says that Denel engineers and technicians are in Saudi Arabia to help the kingdom, the world's leading oil exporter, move ahead with an armed UAV development program.
Denel has adapted the Seeker 400, with a range of 160 miles and an endurance of 16 hours, to carry the company's Mokopa air-to-ground missile and the Impi laser-guided missile.