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Serbia, UAE heat up on small drone bombers

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – During a surprise visit to the IDEX arms exhibition, the President of Serbia announced on February 21 that the country would buy weapons made in the UAE loitering ammoSteer clear of the national vendors exhibiting here while displaying their wares.

Aleksandar Vučić met Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler of the UAE, during the exhibition to unveil their latest partnership to procure UAE loitering ammunition. The leaders further visited the four Serbian companies participating in the exhibition, two of which displayed domestic drones.

One of those suppliers, Belgrade-based PR-DC, is already selling to the governments of Serbia and the United Arab Emirates. The company’s Ika-Bomber can be armed with 12 60mm aerial bombs, including an M73 mortar shell and a fuse designed for drone operation. The multicopter is powered by lithium batteries.

PR-DC Marketing Manager Jovana Jevtić told Defense News: “This is the second time we have exhibited in the UAE, the first time being at UMEX last year. Great interest, especially the IKA-Bomber that he came to visit.”

The company debuted its latest platform, part of the Ika Bomber series, a quadcopter loitering ammunition loaded with mortar shells. Officials would not reveal any of its capabilities, saying only that the drone would be operational in about six months. The company expects to produce 10,000 of its Ika bomber-series drones over the next five years.

Another Serbian company demonstrating its capabilities is Yugoimport, whose OBAD armed drones can be equipped with various weapons for attack operations.

Over the past few years, Serbia has worked to build a strong domestic industrial base to increase its manufacturing capabilities for military drones.

The country is seeking to join the European Union while continuing its relationship with Russia. According to a January 2023 report by the Carnegie Europe think tank, Moscow has been isolated from the rest of Europe by its brutal attacks on Ukraine.

Asked whether the country’s latest decision to opt for foreign-made loitering munitions would undermine Serbia’s goal of localizing the technology, Jevtyć said there was enough business for local suppliers.

“Many Gulf countries have approached us about our platform – Serbia and the UAE are long-term partners, and I don’t think this commitment will have a negative impact on our national market,” she said.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is Defense News’ Europe correspondent. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation industry. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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