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*Russia set to triple its spy drone fleet in $100 million deal*

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User ID: 835446
United Kingdom
12/07/2009 09:49 AM
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*Russia set to triple its spy drone fleet in $100 million deal*
Russia in talks to buy Israeli-made spy drones for $100m

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 defense 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 defense source said. IAI declined to comment.

Russia's war with neighboring Georgia in 2008 exposed an army with largely obsolete equipment and a lack of modern spy drones, defense 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 program.

Russia has held up a planned sale of the S-300 air defense 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

[link to www.haaretz.com]