BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary has signed an agreement to manufacture combat drones in cooperation with Israeli and German companies as part of an effort to grow and modernize its military and defense industry, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of a new combat vehicle factory in Zalaegerszeg in southwest Hungary, Orban said the drones will be produced in cooperation with Israeli defense technology company UVision, and with a German partner that he did not specify.
“If I heard about a country that produces and develops military technology together with Germans and Israelis, I would think twice about messing with them, and that’s good news for every Hungarian,” Orban said.
The combat vehicle factory that opened Friday in Zalaegerszeg, in which the Hungarian government has a 49 percent stake, is majority-owned by German military technology company Rheinmetall. The investment is part of increasing efforts by Orban’s government to enlarge its fighting forces and increase production of military equipment.
Orban said Friday that operations would soon begin at another Rheinmetall investment in Central Hungary, which he said would be “one of Europe’s most modern ammunition factories.”
He also pointed to an Airbus factory in Hungary that opened last year which produces components for modern combat helicopters, and the acquisition by a Hungarian company in 2021 of Czech aircraft manufacturer Aero Vodochody, which produces military and training aircraft.
The growth of Hungary’s military industry comes as it has consistently advocated for an immediate cease-fire and peace talks between Russia and Ukraine. The Hungarian government has refused to provide Kyiv with weapons or to allow their transfer across the two countries’ shared border.
Orban has portrayed himself as being “on the side of peace” in the war, but on Friday said that “for peace, you must have strength.”
“We have not given up building an independent Hungarian defense industry, nor have we given up on putting Hungarian innovation and technology at the forefront of the world,” he said, adding that the war in Ukraine had “only strengthened our determination.”
Hungary, a NATO member, will this year achieve the alliance’s expectations that member nations spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense, Orban said.