Russia has officially acknowledged the plans to ship MiG-31 interceptor jets to Syria, the Kommersant newspaper wrote.
Aleskey Fedorov, the head of the United Aircraft-Making Corporation said that the contract from 2007 never came into effect, but the talks were not interrupted.
Until recently, Russia vehemently rejected the rumors about the intentions to sell MiG-31 interceptor jets to Syria. When the subject surfaced again in May 2009, Russia’s defense export giant Rosoboronexport and aircraft-maker MiG released a joint statement in which it was said that Russia had not signed a contract to deliver MiG fighters to Syria.
The Syrian government also said in an official statement that the news about Moscow’s unwillingness to ship the fighters to Damascus was only another attempt to undermine the friendly relations between Syria and Russia.
As a matter of fact, it was supposed that Russia would deliver eight aircraft to Syria. The contract was evaluated at $400-500 million, the Kommersant wrote. The production of MiG-31 aircraft was wrapped up in 1994, and Russia intended to modernize its operating jets to the purpose.
It was reported in May of this year that Russia decided not to ship the batch of MiG-31 aircraft to Syria. The board of directors of Sokol Enterprise, which modernizes the Russian interceptor jets, confirmed the failure of the contract with Syria at the end of April.
Russia’s Rosoboronexport signed the contract with Damascus in the beginning of 2007. It was originally supposed that Russia was going to deliver eight aircraft to Syria in the sum of 400-500 million USD. Sokol started executing the contract in the summer of 2007.
A source close to Rosoboronexport later acknowledged that Russia turned down the contract over the pressure from Israel. A similar story took place with Russia’s intention to sell Iskander missile systems to Syria in 2005. Israel put enormous pressure on Russia, and the contract was officially terminated. Russia’s then-President Vladimir Putin stated during his visit to Israel and he had banned the implementation of the deal.
However, a different source at one of Russian ministries said that the contract had been canceled because of Syria’s financial problems: the country supposedly did not have the money to pay for the cost-intensive military hardware.