BEIRUT, Nov. 16 (Xinhua) -- Russia's plan to supply Lebanon with 10 MiG-29 fighter jets will enter its final phase soon, the Beirut-based Al-Markazia news agency reported on Monday.
The news agency reported that a Russian military group of experts will be visiting Lebanon in the next few days, on a mission that consists of exploring the capabilities of Lebanese airports to maintain the MiGs.
Days later, Lebanese military envoys will pay a visit to Mosco win order to put the final touches on the deal, the report said.
Lebanese President Michel Suleiman had planned to visit Russia last September, but the trip was canceled due to the busy schedule of his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.
The deal was announced in December 2008 by Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Michel Murr during a visit to Moscow.
The fighters would be provided free to Lebanon under an agreement on military-technical assistance, and the jets would come from Russia's existing stock, the head of Russia's defense cooperation service Mikhail Dmitryevn said during Murr's visit.
Since then, the deal has sparked an internal debate about the necessity of obtaining these aircraft in a small country like Lebanon, which has a national army and an armed militia Hezbollah, which owns thousands of short and mid-range rockets.
Lebanon's air force now have three airbases, which accommodate only five fixed-wing fighters in service, four of which are Hawker Hunters, a kind of jet fighters Britain produced in the 1950's and1960's. Another one is a turboprop-driven light attack aircraft, the U.S.-made OV-10 Bronco.
Israeli warplanes violate Lebanon's air space on a daily basis, however, with the outdated fighters whose number can be negligible, Lebanon's air force can not challenge with their Israeli counterparts equipped with F-15s and F-16s.