JERUSALEM, Nov 8 (AFP): Israel will sell 50 unmanned spy drones worth 220 million dollars to India, public radio reported Tuesday.
The Heron drones can fly at an altitude of 30,000 feet (nine kilometres), are equipped with camera and surveillance technology, automatic takeoff and landing system and are suitable for all weather conditions, the radio said.
The 250-kilo drones can stay airborne for more than 40 minutes.
Questioned by AFP, a defence ministry official refused to confirm or deny the report, saying only that the department did not release information about such armaments contracts.
After decades of cold relations, India and Israel have established strong military ties, illustrated by New Delhi's purchase of three Phalcon advanced air warning systems from the Jewish state in March 2004.
Under the terms of the agreement, Israel was to buy Ilyushin-76 cargo aircraft from Uzbekistan which would then be sent to Russia to be fitted with new high-powered engines.
After structural modifications, the aircraft were to be sent to Israel to be mounted with the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) radar system and the complete aircraft delivered to India.
Meanwhile, the US State Department is defending the Bush administration's agreement to share civilian nuclear technology with India as a pragmatic approach to India's nuclear programme.
Appearing Monday before a sometimes skeptical audience at a nuclear nonproliferation conference, Andrew Semmel, deputy assistant secretary of state for nuclear nonproliferation, said the US position is that "India is unique; that it's a special case."
President George W. Bush's administration, he said, made the much-discussed, and much criticised, July 18 deal in recognition that India, a nuclear power that's not a member of the chief international nonproliferation treaty, had a solid history in guarding against nuclear proliferation.
"The US-India civilian nuclear initiative reflects the need to be creative and adjust nonproliferation approaches to conditions as they exist, rather than as we would wish them to be," Semmel said.
Congress must amend US law before the deal can be completed. Some lawmakers have expressed frustration that the administration did not consult before the deal was made, and they say officials have largely taken congressional support for granted.
David Fite, a professional staff member of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee, reflected some of that congressional frustration when he said, speaking of the agreement: "We still don't know entirely what the administration wants to do with this. ... This has understandably upset many members of Congress: perhaps the greatest change to US nonproliferation policy in nearly three decades and the Congress isn't consulted beforehand."