Army Considers Buying Israeli Drones

Russia is negotiating with Israel to buy a batch of spy drones, the head of the armed forces said Tuesday, in what would be its first purchase of military hardware from the Jewish state.

Israel sparked concern in Moscow after it previously sold drones to Georgia that were used successfully before and during its August war with Russia.

Domestic weapons industries have failed to supply the military with drones, developing only experimental models that experts have described as outdated.

General Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the General Staff of the armed forces, said Russia would like to buy an unspecified number of drones from Israel.

"We are working on this issue. We are talking about a test batch of Israeli drone planes," Makarov said, Interfax reported.

If finalized, the deal would mark an unprecedented delivery of Israeli military technology to the Russian military.

During the Cold War years, Moscow supplied weapons worth billions of dollars to the Arab nations that fought Israel and barred Jews from leaving the Soviet Union.

Israel Aerospace Industries' spokesman Doron Suslik would not comment on Tuesday's report

But Israeli defense officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of Russian-Israeli ties, confirmed the Russians had asked to buy the drones and said Israel was considering the request.

Israeli Defense Ministry envoy Amos Gilad will head to Russia on Wednesday to try to persuade Russia not to sell advanced air defense missiles to Iran, the defense officials said.

Gilad will also discuss the drone sale in his talks with Russian officials, they said.

Russia's top military chiefs have been examining how to modernize its armed forces, including battlefield intelligence, since the war with Georgia, said Matthew Clements, Eurasia analyst at Jane's Information Group.

"This statement is significant because it shows a realization of the lack of battlefield intelligence in the war with Georgia," he said.

While Georgia used Israeli spy drones during the war, Russia had to mainly rely on its Tu-22 strategic bombers for intelligence from the battlefield.

Clements said the most likely drone the Russians would buy is Israel's Hermes 450.

"It's one of the most durable and capable drones in the world," Clements said.