MOSCOW: The Russian Defense Ministry has signed a deal with an Israeli company to buy several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), a Russian deputy defense minister said on Friday.

“We have closed a deal with an Israeli company on the delivery of a range of UAVs,” said Vladimir Popovkin, who is responsible for military procurements.

The Russian business paper Kommersant reported on Tuesday that a contract signed with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) envisioned the purchase of the Bird-Eye 400 mini-UAV (weight – 5kg, range – 10 km), I-view MK150 tactical UAV (160 kg, 100 km), and Searcher Mk II medium-range UAV (426 kg, 250 km).

The Russian military stressed the need to provide its Armed Forces with advanced means of battlefield reconnaissance in the wake of a brief military conflict with Georgia last August, when the effectiveness of Russian military operations was severely hampered by the lack of reliable intelligence.

The Russian Air Force has launched a number of UAV development programs for various purposes. Air Force Commander, Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin said last year that Russia would deploy advanced unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) with a flight range of up to 400 kilometers (250 miles) and a flight duration capability of up to 12 hours by 2011.

However, Russian defense companies, including the MiG corporation, the Russian Helicopters and the Vega Radio Engineering Corp., have failed so far to provide the military with effective spy drones.

Popovkin said that buying foreign spy drones was a temporary measure, and the purchases were designed “to show our industry what it [a spy drone] is.”

“We will rely on our own equipment to fight wars,” he said.

According to various estimates, the Russian military needs up to 100 UAVs and at least 10 guidance systems to ensure effective battlefield reconnaissance in case of any military conflict.