India, Russia sign mega defense deal

Dec. 28, 2010 at 5:51 PM
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NEW DELHI, Dec. 28 (UPI) -- Billed as the world's biggest defense deal, India and Russia signed a $30 billion agreement for the development of fifth-generation warplanes.

The aircraft, named perspective multi-role fighters and for which New Delhi has already allocated $295 million for the design contract, will be jointly developed and manufactured by the Russia firms Rosoboronexport and Sukhoi and Bangalore's Hindustan Aeronautics.

The pact was signed recently on the sidelines of a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Both leaders discussed their defense relationship, which experts describe as one moving from a buyer-seller format to one including research and development, manufacturing and marketing activities.

Under the deal, at least 250 warplanes are to be delivered in 2020-30.

"The basic structural and system design of the fighters will be the same as those of the Russian fifth-generation fighters," the DNA news agency reported. "A few modifications, though, will be made to meet the requirements of the Indian air force."

Single- and twin-seat versions of the aircraft are expected to be developed and the plane will be ready for flying by 2017.

Along with the plane development, the two countries have set a framework agreement under which Russia will construct two more nuclear power plants at Kudankulam in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Russia is already setting up two reactors there.

"The fighters will have advanced features such as stealth, super-cruise, ultra-maneuverability, highly integrated avionics suites, enhanced situational awareness, internal carriage of weapons and network-centric warfare capabilities," DNA reported.

India intends to spend up to $30 billion on its military by 2012. In recent months, also, it inducted a long-range, nuclear-tipped missile into its armed forces, unveiling a defense spending budget spiked by 24 percent since last year.

The moves have Pakistan fretting, with leading officials billing India's drive a "massive militarization."

Bent on bolstering its military might, India boosted its defense ties with Russia this year. It is expected that the military industry in Moscow will also supply New Delhi with 22 attack helicopters and 15 heavy lift helicopters.

Russia has been the biggest military supplier to India since the Cold War. While India's armed forces rely heavily on Russian supplies, New Delhi has been trying to diversify its military imports in recent years.

The bulk of it defense forces include Su-30MKI fighter aircraft and T-90 and T-72 tanks.

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