Russia has concluded a contract with an Israeli firm for the sale of drones, a defense official said on Friday, in Moscow's first purchase of military hardware from the Jewish state.
"We have concluded a contract with an Israeli firm on supplying Russia with several drones," Russian Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin said after returning from a trip to Israel, quoted by Russian news agencies.
The minister did not name the Israeli company, but press reports have identified it as Israel Aerospace Industries and put the value of the deal at 50 million dollars (37 million Euros). Negotiations with Israel are likely to have been colored by tensions over Russian ties with some of the Jewish state's Middle Eastern adversaries, such as Iran, say analysts.
Popovkin on Friday echoed earlier dissatisfaction voiced by Russia's military with the drones produced by his country's own defense industry. The purpose of the latest purchase is "for our manufacturers to see what it is we're talking about," he said.
Moscow began shopping for foreign unmanned aircraft after last year's war in Georgia. Defense analysts say Georgia made effective use of its Israeli drones in the conflict, while Russia's home-made drones turned out to be inferior.
Russia is in the midst of an ongoing effort to modernize its military and equip its armed forces with up-to-date technology, despite disagreements among some in the military over the priorities that have been set.
According to Kommersant, Russia is purchasing Bird-Eye 400, I-View MK150 and Search MK II drones from Israel Aerospace Industries.