India set to buy 300 aircraft from Russia

Oct. 12, 2010 at 6:54 AM
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NEW DELHI, Oct. 12 (UPI) -- India has announced plans purchase as many as 300 combat aircraft from Russia in a joint agreement including the development and production of the aircraft.

Speaking to reporters during a news conference, Indian Defense Minister AK Antony said Russia would supply as many as 300 fifth-generation fighter aircraft and about 45 multi-role transport planes.

India will receive 250-300 advanced fighter jets, Antony said. "These are the two major projects for the next 10 years which will be a shining example of Indian-Russian cooperation," he said.

He said the project along with a venture agreed to earlier this year to jointly develop a multi-role transport aircraft would become the flagship of Indian-Russian collaboration programs.

"Some technical formalities between the governments is [still] needed and I am sure we will be able to complete [the agreement] very soon ... within a few months," Antony said at the news conference.

Details of the joint development of the fifth-generation aircraft program weren't announced but are widely expected to be similar to the transport aircraft program, local media in Russia suggested.

The fifth-generation fighter planes, the St. Petersburg Times reported, will be produced by Russia's Sukhoi and India's National Aerospace Laboratories. A Russian-drafted contract has been submitted for India's approval.

"It is too early to talk about the price of the deals," Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, told the newspaper.

The contracts that are being prepared will be signed in December during Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's planned visit to India.

Experts have suggested that each fighter aircraft could be worth in excess of $100 million.

Defense News quoted Indian Defense Production Secretary R.K. Singh saying the cost of the program would be worked in stages.

"At present a $300 million preliminary design contract for the FGFA program is currently under the (Indian) government's consideration," Singh said.

The multi-role transport aircraft deal was signed last month between Hindustan Aeronautic Ltd. and Russia's United Aircraft Corp. and Rosoboronexport. The project is estimated at a value of $645 million.

Bent on bolstering its military might, India has recently boosted its defense ties with Russia. In a related agreement, officials in Moscow say they are waiting for clearance from New Delhi to supply the country with 22 attack helicopters and 15 heavy lift helicopters.

"As soon as we get the contract we will provide them," Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said after talks with Antony.

India plans to mothball its mainstay MiG-21 Soviet-era fighter jets, dubbed "flying coffins" because of their dismal safety record.

India is in the process of acquiring 270 Sukhoi jets worth $12 billion. It is also set to award a contract for 126 fighter planes as part of a separate $12 billion deal for which six global aeronautical giants are competing.

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