US offers technology for 85 `mini` Raven drones to Pak

Local manufacturers say they can build an equally potent version at just a fifth of the price.

Updated: Apr 25, 2011, 23:49 PM IST

Islamabad: The US has offered technology
for 85 mini `Raven` drones to Pakistan, but local
manufacturers say they can build an equally potent, if not a
more powerful version, at just a fifth of the price quoted by
Americans, a media report said on Sunday.

At least 11 corps of the Pakistan Army are set to
receive a system each, comprising Raven aircraft and one
ground station, the Express Tribune newspaper reported quoting
its sources within the military and local drone manufacturing

While officials are tight-lipped about the exact cost
and model of the short-range unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)
manufactured by the US-based AeroVironment Inc, the cost of
each system is estimated to be between USD 200,000 and USD
275,000, the daily said.

The funds for their procurement are expected to come
from the US government`s foreign military sales` provisions
for security assistance and aid.

Pakistan Army spokesperson Major General Athar Abbas
however says the deal has not been formalised yet.

"We are yet to receive a formal proposal from the US
regarding the Raven drone. So until we receive that I won`t be
able to give a comment," the daily quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Army, which had been pushing
for an armed drone from the US, is reportedly irked that not
only have their pleas for a Predator-like armed drone have
been shot down, negotiations for 12 long-range reconnaissance
Shadow drones that were offered last year have also hit a

Sources within the military say that though
negotiations for the Shadow reconnaissance drone are still
going on, they are unhappy at the astronomical price tag
(estimated at more than USD 20 million) and a delivery
timeline of 2014.

"Who knows at what stage the war on terror will be in
2014?" an official privy to the negotiations asked.

Meanwhile, Raja Sabri Khan, chief executive of
Integrated Dynamics, a private company based in Karachi,
called the Raven "a toy" that was developed 15 years ago.

He said one has to log on to YouTube to see the same
product was being used by the US Marines as a toy when hanging
out at the beach. "It`s a bit of a joke really."

The daily said Khan, an MIT graduate whose drones are
being exported the world over, said his company already has a
product called Rover that far exceeds the capability of Raven
at just one-third of the price.

East West Infiniti Private Ltd (EWI) managing director
Dr Haroon Qureshi also dismissed the Raven drone offer from
the US as "a public relations exercise" designed to give a
false impression to the military and public in Pakistan that
the Americans are offering sophisticated technology.

He said Ravens are useful for short term missions but
have little tactical value.

Given their fragility and high damage rate, the
military will be spending huge sums of money on acquiring
parts if it opts for the Raven, he added.