Syria denies reports Russia called off MiG-31 deal

Reports part of "attempts to undermine friendly relations" between Syria, Russia, Damascus says.

Mig 31 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Mig 31 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Syria on Sunday denied reports that Russia had decided to call off the sale to Damascus of eight MiG-31 planes in the wake of pressure from Israel. "This is part of attempts to undermine the friendly relations and cooperation between Syria and Russia," an official Syrian statement quoted Reuters said. According to a report in the Kommersant newspaper, Russia was supposed to sell eight MiG-31s to Syria. The $500m. deal was signed in early 2007, but work on the project was halted in April. The contract was supposed to be the first export deal for the MiG-31E, a heavy twin-engine interceptor capable of flying at nearly three times the speed of sound and simultaneously firing at several targets at ranges of up to 180 km. The aircraft was designed in the 1980s for tackling low-flying cruise missiles and other difficult targets. It was considered a key component of Russia's defense against a possible US attack and remains the backbone of the country's manned air defenses. Syria was reportedly slated to receive a number of MiG-29M fighters, a version that features significantly improved range, has better radar and carries a broader array of weapons, compared to the basic MiG-29 model. The Jerusalem Post has learned that Israel plans to expedite production of unmanned aerial vehicles for Russia after Moscow announced last week it had decided to halt the MiG-31 deal. Under the $50 million deal, signed in April, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will supply Russia with some of its second-tier UAVs, including the Bird-Eye 400 mini-UAV, the I-view MK150 tactical UAV and the Searcher Mk II medium-range UAV. This is the first Israeli sale of military platforms to Russia. Yaakov Katz contributed to this report