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Friday, December 17, 2010

Russia gets first delivery of Israeli drones - Ifax

(Reuters) - Israel has delivered an unspecified number of drones to Russia, Interfax news agency said on Thursday, in the first such order by Moscow as it tries to revitalise its flagging air force.
Aimed at boosting Russia's intelligence-gathering abilities, the aircraft delivery sealed a $50 million Israeli drone deal signed last year.

"All the drones specified by contract were delivered to the Russian Ministry of Defence. A group of Russian officers underwent training in the use of the equipment," Interfax quoted an unnamed military-diplomatic source as saying.

Russia's five-day war with ex-Soviet Georgia in 2008 exposed its poor intelligence and communication systems.

While Georgia used Israeli drones in the conflict, Russia relied mainly on its Tu-22 strategic bombers for battlefield intelligence. Russia, the world's largest country, easily won the war, but analysts say more than half of Russia's air losses were the result of friendly fire.

Israel's agreement to beef up Russia's air force was part of a trade-off obtaining Moscow's agreement to shelving plans to sell Iran the S-300 air defence missile systems, according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks.
Russia froze an order of the surface-to-air missiles to Iran earlier this year, citing the restrictions of a fresh round of U.N. Security Council sanctions against Tehran for its shadowy nuclear activities.
Russia has said it wants to buy Israeli drones to understand their construction and technology.
An Israeli defence industry source told Reuters on Thursday that the deliveries were the result of a deal signed a year and a half ago.
Deputy Defence Minister Vladimir Popovkin has previously said Russia was eyeing 14 Israeli drones in its first order.
In October, Russia placed an order double the size of that of last April for another set of drones.

Analysts say the Russian air force needs approximately 100 drones for effective intelligence gathering in case of any military conflict.
(Writing by Thomas Grove; additional reporting by Dan Williams in Jerusalem; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Israeli Military Unveils Drone Fleet

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