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Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Friday, 10 April 2009 16:41 UK

Russia 'will buy Israeli drones'

Russian forces withdraw from Georgia, October 2008
Performance of Russia's drones was criticised during the Georgia conflict

Russia has signed a deal to buy Israeli unmanned spy planes to help the country improve its own drones, reports say.

The news comes after reports that Moscow was unhappy with the performance of similar Russian aircraft during the conflict last year with Georgia.

An industry source in Israel said Russian generals had been impressed with the Israeli drones used by Georgia in the conflict.

Reports say the Israeli planes will cost a total of $50m (£35m).

Russia's deputy defence minister, Vladimir Popovkin, was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying the military had signed a contract to buy an unspecified number of pilotless drones.

"I was in Israel and even operated one," RIA-Novosti quoted him as saying.

He added that Russia wanted to study the technology of the drones in an effort to improve its own pilotless planes, which came under criticism during the Georgia conflict.

Mr Popovkin said Russia had used a Tipchak drone during the fighting with Georgia, but that it had "very many problems", RIA-Novosti reported.

"You could hear it flying from 100km away," RIA-Novosti quoted him as saying. "It returned all shot up."

The chief of staff of Russia's armed forces said in December that Moscow was negotiating with Israel to buy a batch of spy drones.

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