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    Russia starts tests of target designator for Iskander missiles

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    MOSCOW, January 28 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has started testing a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to provide target designation for Iskander missile systems, a defense industry official said on Wednesday.

    "We are starting tests of a prototype of a reconnaissance/strike aerial drone, which could serve as a target designator for the Iskander tactical missile system," said Arkady Syroyezhko, director of UAV development programs at the Vega Radio Engineering Corp.

    The new Aist (Stork) multipurpose UAV with extended payload of up to 500 kg (1,100 pounds) will be capable of carrying a variety of aerial surveillance equipment, electronic warfare devices and even weapons.

    "The tests are expected to last for two years," the official said, adding that the construction of the prototype had almost been completed.

    The drone will be able to provide effective target designation for the Iskander-M tactical missile systems, which have a range of up to 500 kilometers (310 miles).

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev threatened in November to retaliate over the U.S. missile shield plans in central Europe by deploying Iskander-M missiles in the country's westernmost exclave of Kaliningrad, which borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania.

    However, a high ranking Russian defense ministry source said on Wednesday that Russia had taken no practical measures to deploy the systems in Kaliningrad so far, and Russian officials have said they expect that the new U.S. administration to change its stance on the deployment of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar in the Czech Republic.

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