Russia and Syria have signed a $550-million contract on the delivery of 36 Yakovlev Yak-130 Mitten combat trainer, the Kommersant daily reported Monday.
The report quoted a source close to Russia’s state arms exporter Rosoboronexport who indicated the aerospace company Irkut would produce the jets for Syria in the coming months.
Both Rosoboronexport and Irkut declined to comment on the deall. However, the source said that under the deal, struck in December,the jets are to be supplied to Syria once Damascus makes an initial deposit on the deal, the source said.
Analysts say the contract is “risky” given the worsening satiation in Syria and the growing international pressure on President Bashar al-Assad over his crackdown on protesters.
Ruslan Pukhov, who heads the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Stategies and Technologies, told RIA Movosti the contract was “certainly a big success of Russia’s leaders and arms traders.”
However, Pukhov cautioned that “the international community, led by the United States, has made a decision to crush Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and this may lead to the contract being disrupted and Russia suffering image and financial losses.”
The contract was apparently signed when the situation in Syria was “not as dramatic as it is now,” Pukhov opined.
Analysts say the craft would be a poor choice for fighting the growing insurgency faced by Assad's regime and is not capable of emerging victorious in air-to-air battles with Israeli, Turkish, or Western aircraft should a conventional war erupt.
The planes are only the latest arms sale to Assad's regime by Russia. who has opposed sanctions, including an arms embargo, on Syria. Russia, which has billions invested in Syrian trade and contracts, recently sold the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile system to Damascus.
Earlier this month, the United States expressed concerns over weapons deliveries to Damascus following media reports about a Russian ship loaded with arms docking in the Syrian port of Tartus.
The official civilian death toll in Assad's nearly year-long crackdown on dissidents has risen to 5,400, according to United Nations human rights officials. Assad's regime says some 2,000 security personnel have also been killed by armed insurgents - mostly comprised of army defectors.