In defiance of international efforts to topple President Bashar Assad, Russia
announced on Monday it signed a $550 million deal to sell 36 combat aircraft to
According to a report in Russia’s Kommersant, the deal for the
Yak-130 aircraft was signed in December.
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Production is expected to begin
once Syria makes its first payment for the planes.
Russia and Syria began
negotiations over the possible sale of Yak-130 advanced fighter trainers in late
2010. The plane is operational in Algeria and Libya, and if delivered to Syria
would likely replace its older fleet of L-39 trainers.
Syria would likely
order an armed configuration of the aircraft so it can be used as to train
pilots and bomb ground targets.
Moscow is one of Assad’s few remaining
allies, and is still serving top arms customer Syria, while joining China in an
October veto of a Western- crafted UN Security Council resolution that
threatened an arms embargo.
Syria spent up to $700m. on Russian
arms in 2010, some 7 percent of Russia’s total of $10 billion in arms deliveries
abroad, according to the Russian defense think tank CAST. Russian Navy ships
also recently docked in Tartus as another demonstration of support for the
Russia recently completed the delivery of advanced
supersonic Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria as part of a deal
negotiated in 2007. In December, Syria test-fired one of the Yakhont missiles
during a series of war games aimed at signaling Assad’s continued control over
the Syrian military.
Earlier this month a ship full of ammunition from
Russia was detained in Cyprus. The ship was released the next day and sailed to
The United States said it raised concerns about the ship with
Russia, but Moscow replied that it needs no justification for its defense trade
with Syria as there is no internationally binding arms embargo in
place.Reuters contributed to the report.