JERUSALEM, Israel - Russia plans to provide Syria with MiG fighter jets, according to the Russian newspaper Kommersant.
Alexei Fyodorov, who heads Russia's state-run United Aircraft Corporation, confirmed the existence of a 2007 contract to sell MiG-31E interceptor aircraft to Syria, which Russian government officials had been denying.
According to Fyodorov, the contract is being implemented now, though Russia's state arms sales company, Rosoboronexport, refused to comment on the report.
Rosoboronexport had issued a previous statement saying that "Russia has no plans to deliver fighter jets to Syria."
Meanwhile, in the "annual threat assessment," Lt.-Gen. Michael D. Maples, outgoing head of the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Russia will be delivering the MiGs to Syria very soon.
"With regard to its external defense, Syria's military remains in a defensive posture and inferior to Israel's forces, but it is upgrading its missile, rocket, anti-tank and air defense inventories," the outgoing U.S. intelligence chief said.
"Recent Syrian contracts with Russia for future delivery include new MiG-31 and MiG-29M/M2 fighter aircraft," he told committee members.
Russia had reportedly delayed delivery, but Israeli defense officials weren't surprised by the outcome of the deal.
"Syria currently has an obsolete air force based on outdated MiGs. If Syria gets new MiG 31s, then this will pose a definite threat to our air force," one Israeli official said.
Source: The Associated Press