Russia plans to press on with deliveries to Syria of an initial batch of nine Yak-130 advanced jet trainers by the end of 2014, according to Russian media reports, after delaying handing over the aircraft last year due to the country's civil war.
Damascus paid Moscow a $100 million advance last year for six of the aircraft, according to the state-run RIA Novosti agency. A source told the agency at the time that delivery of the aircraft “awaited a political decision”.
However, a source close to Russia's Rosoboronexport state arms corporation told the Kommersant daily on 5 May that deliveries from an order for 36 aircraft would begin this year, and are to be complete by 2016.
Nine aircraft will be handed over this year, 12 in 2015 and the remaining 15 the following year, the source says.
An industry source told RIA Novosti last year that the first aircraft had already been manufactured at United Aircraft Corporation’s Sokol factory in Nizhny Novgorod. The source said the airframes only awaited the installation of engines and avionics – and a decision to hand them over.
Russia has come under widespread international pressure not to deliver arms to the Assad regime in Syria, and was criticised by Washington for handing over refurbished military helicopters to Damascus. Moscow insisted the aircraft were the subject of a deal concluded before the recent conflict broke out, and therefore such deliveries were not in contravention of international law.
The Yak-130 is a combat-capable design and can carry a wide variety of air-to-surface weapons such as bombs, rockets and missiles. The Assad regime has used its military fast jets and helicopters against rebels in civilian areas.
Russia – and the Soviet Union before it – has for decades been Damascus’ principal supplier of aircraft and weapons.