Saturday, September 18, 2010

India Set For 4-Year Run as Russia's Top Customer

India bought more Russian weapons last year than any other country, and recent deals seem likely to solidify that status, Alexander Fomin, the deputy director of the Russian Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation, told Russian official ITAR-TASS news agency Sept. 9.

A bilateral 2009 agreement set broad goals for military and technical cooperation, Fomin said.

India and Russia have ended preliminary talks over an accord to jointly develop fifth-generation fighter and will each pledge $6 billion to build an aircraft to challenge U.S. F-22 Raptor, Indian Business Standard newspaper reported Sept. 11, quoting Ashok Nayak, chairman of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The accord is expected to be signed in December when the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits India.

India surpassed China in 2007 with purchases of Russian arms worth $1.5 billion. In 2008, Algeria pulled ahead of India. But in 2009, New Delhi regained the lead, importing Russian arms worth $1.78 billion, twice as much as China's $848 million, according to the Center for Analysis of International Arms Trade, a local think tank.

For the nearest four years - from 2010 to 2013 - India will remain the biggest client, accounting for 54.4 percent, or $15.16 billion, of the Russian foreign defense orders portfolio for this period, according to the center. Vietnam's orders for this period come second in size, reaching $3 billion.

Indian Air Force plan to procure 59 Mi-17 (NATO name: Hip) helicopters in addition to the 80 ordered from Russia in 2008, The Times of India reported Sept. 9, quoting Indian Defense Ministry officials.

A source in the Russian government arms export agency Rosoboronexport confirmed the ongoing talks and the 2008 contract, but refused to disclose details other than saying that India will start receiving the first helicopters by year's end. Analysts here estimate that 139 Mi-17s would cost about $2 billion.

On Sept. 9, Russia and India signed an agreement to set up a joint venture to co-develop a multi-role transport aircraft to replace the Indian Air Force's obsolete An-12s within the next decade, Fomin told reporters. Each country pledged $300 million to the effort to develop a 2,500-km range aircraft that can carry 20 tons of cargo.

Also, a representative of Russia's Irkut company said Sept. 14 that talks are going on with India over buying 42 Su-30MKI fighter jets. India has already ordered 230 Su-30MKI assembly kits from Irkut, which are being assembled by the HAL. Expert estimate the price tag for each Su-30 fighter to be at about $40 million.

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