World News

Russia seeks to triple Israeli-made drone fleet

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Russia is negotiating a second purchase of Israeli-made spy drones roughly twice the size of an initial $50 million sale announced in April, Israeli defence sources said on Monday.

They said the new deal with state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) would be worth about $100 million and would feature improved surveillance equipment on the pilotless planes.

“The Russians are going for a triple upgrade of their fleet and its capabilities,” a defence source said.

IAI declined to comment.

Russia’s war with neighbouring Georgia in 2008 exposed an army with largely obsolete equipment and a lack of modern spy drones, defence analysts said.

While Georgia used Israeli drones during the five days of fighting, Russia had to rely mainly on its Tu-22 strategic bombers for battlefield intelligence.

The drone deals help improve Israeli ties with Russia, an important country in international efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear programme.

Russia has held up a planned sale of the S-300 air defence system to Iran. Analysts have said the S-300 could help the Iranians defend their atomic sites against possible military strikes by Israel or the United States.

Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Andrew Dobbie