Moscow's intention to purchase more unmanned air vehicles from Israel and to develop a local manufacturing facility with that nation's help have been placed in doubt, following a deal to sell Russian-made anti-ship cruise missiles to Syria.

Russia has confirmed that it has approved the deal, which will transfer P-800 Yakhont missiles to the Syrian navy.

The announcement has surprised and angered the Israeli government, which has made major efforts to foil the implementation of the deal, signed in 2007.

"We will have to reconsider all the proposed deals with Russia. Moscow did not show the needed understanding to our requests," says a senior Israeli defence source.

Russia has within the recent months purchased $50 million worth of mini UAV systems made by Israel Aerospace Industries.

The business was viewed as the first step towards a bilateral partnership worth around $300 million, which should establish a joint venture between IAI and local industry to build UAVs in Russia. Moscow is believed to be interested in additional systems, including the Israeli firm's medium-altitude, long-endurance Heron design.

The Israeli source says the suggested partnership is in doubt, as Yakhont missiles could potentially end up in the hands of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah organisation, which is active in Lebanon.

During the second Lebanon war of 2006, Hezbollah launched an Iranian copy of China's C-802 anti-ship missile from a beach, striking an Israeli navy missile ship.

Source: Flight International