Thursday, October 7, 2010

India to Buy 250-300 Fighter Jets From Russia

India has agreed to buy up to 300 advanced stealth fighter jets from Russia that it will help jointly develop and manufacture, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Oct. 7.

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

Hindustan Aeronautic Ltd (HAL) and Russia's United Aircraft Corp and Rosoboronexport signed a joint venture last month to develop the multi-role transport aircraft in a project worth $645 million.

Serdyukov said previous success in the co-production of the BrahMos cruise missile would spur the FGFA's joint development by India's HAL and Russia's state-owned Sukhoi Company over the next 10 years.

"The FGFA have been designed by us, the price has been fixed and the draft of the agreement has been given to India. Once it is signed, HAL and Sukhoi will participate," Serdyukov said.

He did not disclose details.

Experts say each 30-ton FGFA is worth up to 100 million dollars.

Indian Defence Production Secretary R.K. Singh said the costing would be worked out in stages.

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

The draft agreement is likely to be signed during a trip to India by President Dmitry Medvedev in December.

Moscow is New Delhi's largest military supplier but recent frictions over cost escalations and delays in the delivery of a refurbished Russian aircraft carrier have strained cosy bilateral ties.

"We have a great volume of (military) projects and so it is natural to have some delays," Serdyukov said.

The minister also said Russia was waiting for New Delhi's clearance to supply 22 attack helicopters and 15 heavylift helicopters.

"As soon as we get the contract we will provide them," Serdyukov added.

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

India is also in the process of acquiring 270 Sukhoi war jets worth 12 billion dollars and is poised to hand out a contract for 126 fighter planes as part of a separate 12-billion dollar deal for which six global aeronautical giants are in the race.

The announcement of the FGFA agreement came a day day after Antony, in a clear reference to China, warned of the danger posed by regional "neighbours" who were building their military capabilities at a "feverish" pace.

"Some nations are keen to incite threats to our unity and integrity (and) thus to successfully meet such challenges, the need for us to be vigilant and prepared at all times goes without saying and is unquestionable," he said, without naming any specific country.

India has longstanding territorial disputes with China and is suspicious of Beijing's close relations with Pakistan.

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