No rave reviews for Raven drone spy planes

Published: April 25, 2011
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Condor mini drone

Condor mini drone

Raven drone Rover UAV Condor mini drone
KARACHI: 

The technology for the 85 mini ‘Raven’ drones being offered by the US has not only been available in Pakistan for years, localmr drone manufacturers say they can build an equally potent, if not a more powerful version, at just  a fifth of the price quoted by US manufacturers.

Sources within the military and local drone manufacturing industry say that at least 11 corps of the Pakistan Army are set to receive a system each, comprising six Raven aircraft and one ground station.

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 $200,000 and $275,000. The funds for their procurement are expected to come from the US government’s foreign military sales’ provisions for security assistance and aid.

ISPR 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,” he said.

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 been shot down, negotiations for 12 long-range reconnaissance Shadow drones that were offered last year have also hit a wall.

Sources within the military say that although negotiations for the Shadow reconnaissance drone are still going on, they are unhappy at the astronomical price tag (estimated at more than $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 said.

Reviews for Raven

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,” he 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.

A system of six Rover UAVs, including the controlling station, would cost about $65,000, he said.

“There are at least two to three companies in Pakistan who, if asked to develop something like the Raven at one-third of the cost, could have delivered the entire order within just three months,” he said.

East West Infiniti Private Ltd (EWI) managing director Dr Haroon Qureshi from Islamabad 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.

Local manufacturers

Ahmed Rehan, the Lahore-based CEO of a private company Technocrafts, has been in the business of manufacturing reconnaissance and target drones since 1994. He has been exporting his products to the Middle Eastern market, including Saudi Arabia.

“I have been trying to sell my company’s Condor mini drone to the military, which is more powerful than the American Raven, for the last three years, but every time I’ve hit a dead end,” Rehan said, adding his product is available at just one-fifth of the cost of Raven.

Despite the fact that he had met all requirements of the military for the mini drone, including versions with handheld or vehicle-mounted launch and parachute landing, he said he still hasn’t been given the go ahead. “I’m hoping for a miracle now,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Fighter
    Apr 25, 2011 - 8:45AM

    I know we have the 3rd most powerful army, 5th best air force and, as the report said we are also exporting drones outside, then I don’t understand why our government is trying to spend money in buying bad American products. I am sure given a chance and funding our developers could develop a much more powerful predator drones in no time, I just don’t understand what are we waiting for? to achieve the top rank in army and air force we have back ourselves and develop our own products. Recommend

  • Richard
    Apr 25, 2011 - 9:12AM

    Come on Pakistan, enough waiting for US handouts.
    “local drone manufacturers say they can build an equally potent, if not a more powerful version, at just a fifth of the price quoted by US manufacturers.”
    So go ahead and build it. Start building a taxed class, and stop looking to blame others for the problems within your border. True – the U.S. has botched efforts to “promote democracy” in the developing world. But it’s also true that complaining about that relentlessly will not solve your problems.
    Chances are your kids will grow up like previous generations, quoting to visitors the half-century old UN resolution on a Kashmir plebicite. As a frequent visitor to Pakistan, with many friends there, I want to see the country do better. It won’t if it’s held back by the mindset that the U.S. is responsible for its problems and its progress.Recommend

  • Ajay
    Apr 25, 2011 - 9:14AM

    If the purpose is to spot bad guys (whatever the Pakistani definition of bad guys is) and then report to Americans so they can target the right spots on Pakistani advice, why does Pakistan need more than that?

    US would be genuoinely concerned about Pakistanis sharing the technology with their dear Chinese friends or for that matter with anyone willing to deposit funds in Swiss or Cayman Is. accounts. Recommend

  • Maria
    Apr 25, 2011 - 9:46AM

    Why not allow the transfer of more advanced predator type drone technology to Pakistan so that we can manufacture our own drones at a reasonable cost. The military should refuse to put any of our soldiers at risk until they are given the same level of support and resources that Western sources are given in Afghanistan. If we are on the same side fighting the same enemy, it follows we should have access to the same resources to carry out that fight. The lives of our Pakistani soldiers are as precious as any Western soldier.Recommend

  • bvindh
    Apr 25, 2011 - 10:10AM

    As an Indian, I used to find the stories of Pakistan-US relationship to be occasionally funny. But, after reading this I just feel sorry for you guys.Recommend

  • Colorado NRI
    Apr 25, 2011 - 10:27AM

    These are hand-launched little thingys, aren’t they? They are just a smaller-scaled version of what Daddy uses. Should be a fun distraction for the boys nevertheless. Perhaps they can help the Shiekhs hunt the houbara bustards.

    Enjoy your drones, General. Recommend

  • DroneAcharya
    Apr 25, 2011 - 11:05AM

    The Raven “drone” has to be launched by hand like paper airplanes. It is available for $50 in the US and many kids own one. I am sure Kayani and Pasha will have so much fun playing with it that they will forget to create trouble for India and the US.Recommend

  • Chilli
    Apr 25, 2011 - 11:16AM

    Can u expect that corrupt generals will leave large kick backs associated with this deal??? never..just like french submarines. Our tax money will be looted by them like before.Recommend

  • sajid imran khan
    Apr 25, 2011 - 11:30AM

    yes Army should consider both options, but try to get Ahmad Rehan’s offer…lolzRecommend

  • Ravi
    Apr 25, 2011 - 11:45AM

    Being a chela of china, pakistan cannot expect US to transfer hi-tech to it.
    Why ????
    China had access to pakistani f-16’s which they invariably copies for their jf-17 and now j-10.
    JF-17’s design is copied from Su-27 (which eventually was a failed model and was rejected by russian air force) and its arms were copied fom F-16.
    Now i am sure there will be a comparison of tejas Vs JF-17………..on this forumRecommend

  • Khalid Rahim
    Apr 25, 2011 - 3:48PM

    @Fighter: Have you heard of kickbacks the Generals of today are no different from elected
    representatives when it comes to ” What is my percentage in $$$$$$ ” ? The local firms cannot compete with outsiders in this matter. Specially when issues like Raymond Davis or
    Drones become the oil that one rubs the other.Recommend

  • Riz1
    Apr 25, 2011 - 9:31PM

    I may be wrong but drones are of various types and I am sure that they must be available from many countries. This is not a unique technology and can be based on the aero-modelling hobby. Even the UAV shown in ‘Three Idiots’ is commercially available for Police and law enforcement. My point is that it is stupid to make fun of a particular type of UAV by comparing it with Predator, etc. It speaks of a total lack of understanding about the issue. Just Google it to get more information. Each type of UAV or drone has its own utility. Another aspect is that spending of US military aid for War on Terror is often restricted to products specified by USA. Given the option, I am sure that our Army would prefer to buy locally manufactured UAV. Recommend

  • khanman
    Apr 26, 2011 - 3:06AM

    @Richard:
    Oh come on….your response is irreverent here. There is nothing wrong in debating what is right or wrong for Pakistan. Yes, we know this is a typical response from the right side of the border. We know, how you get all emotional and sensitive, when the subject is related to your new friend amercia or israel. Bye the way….It is YOU, who is complaining here.Recommend

  • Moiz Rafay
    Apr 26, 2011 - 2:28PM

    I am seriously disappointed in the Pakistan Army for not immediately opting for local products over american ones.

    Even if the raven was superior which it probably isn’t considering its old tech, learning to build something yourself is always better. There’s a saying,
    “When you live next to a lake, dont buy the fish from your neighbours. LEARN TO FISH.”Recommend

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