Russia is seeking to purchase Israeli-manufactured unmanned planes, a surprising announcement in Moscow revealed on Saturday.
According to the announcement, the Russian army general staff is considering the purchase because of the Israeli drone's high capabilities. If the deal is carried out, it will be a rare occurrence, as Russia seldom buys weapons and military technology from Israel.
There have been deals between the two countries in the past, but on a much smaller scale, and including lesser technology such as bulletproof vests or counter-terror equipment. However, Israel has purchased from Russia four Ilyushin planes, which will be fitted with locally manufactured intelligence equipment, for the Phalcon system to be supplied to India in the future.
A Russian defense ministry spokesman said Saturday following the announcement that "Russia cannot forget that it must support local production," and therefore, if the deal goes forward, Russia will "purchase several drones and the rest will be manufactured under license in Russia."
Russian MP Mikhail Musatov quoted the Russian chief of staff over the weekend as saying that "the General Staff has decided that while we don't have such drones, over the next two to three years, we will buy them from Israel."
The announcement comes after Moscow had an opportunity to evaluate the aircraft's capabilities during the recent conflict between the Russian army and Georgia in the breakaway Georgian region of South Osettia. In the clash, the Israeli-made drones, the Hermes model manufactured by Elbit, were used by the Georgian army.
The Israel Aerospace Industries-manufactured Heron model is also vying for the tender.
The Israeli drones are made entirely of locally manufactured parts, and therefore do not require U.S. authorization prior to being sold to foreign countries. However, it is not yet clear how Washington will react to the deal, though U.S. president-elect Barack Obama has voiced his interest in strengthening ties with Moscow.