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India, Russia sign fighters swap deal

April 12, 2007 14:53 IST
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India and Russia have signed a $500 million (about Rs 2,0145 crore) deal for the swapping of 18 Sukhoi fighter jets in service with the Indian Air Force for the latest version of air superiority multi-role warbirds tailored to meet Indian requirements, a media report in Moscow said.

"Rosoboronexport has signed a $500-million contract with India for the delivery of 18 Su-30MKI fighter jets and the purchase from it of 18 used Su-30K planes at a price that reflects their resale value," business and political daily Kommersant reported. The contract has been under negotiation since the end of 2005 and it would make it possible to conclude one more contract for $1.6 billion (about Rs 6,800 crore), the daily said.

Aircraft Corporation Irkut, the manufacturer of Sukhoi aircraft for India took a bank credit in advance to build the new fighter jets for the IAF and has already produced 12 of 18 warbirds. The remaining planes may be completed by the end of this year. With that deal complete, negotiations can be resumed over the delivery of an additional 40 kits for the licensed assembly of Su-30MKI models in India, the daily reported.

Although the arms exporting monopoly agency "Rosoboronexport" has declined to confirm the report it is believed that Su-30K planes from India may be resold to Russia's friendly nations in "conflict prone" regions like African horn, Southeast Asia or the Arabian peninsula, who have "modest means".

Under the multi-billion dollar deal, 18 Su-30K planes were delivered to India between 1997 and 1999 when Russia's Sukhoi Corporation had started the development of its MKI version, claimed to be the only multi-role fighter of its type in the world with thrust vectoring engines.

According to Kommersant, IAF's Su-30K have an average record of about 1,500 flying hours and require an overhaul and upgradation costing $12 million (about Rs 51 crore) per aircraft. While a new Su-30 MKI costs $40 million (about Rs 171 crore). It writes that the 18 used fighters of IAF were originally planned to be purchased last year for resale to Belarus. Unofficial sources say the planes may have been intended for sale to Syria or Eritrea through Belarus. That deal fell through when Russia and Belarus came into conflict over the price of Russian natural gas. However, last month, Minsk denied that Russian weapons were being resold through Belarus to the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Russia will shortly begin the shipments of 38 "Smerch" multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) to India under a $450 million (about Rs 1,930 crore) deal signed two years ago. The first lot of Smerch reactive multi-launch rocket systems made by OAO Motovilikhinskiye Plants will be dispatched to India in the coming days, Kommersant reported.

Last week, 'Rosoboronexport' and the Indian defence ministry signed a new option contract on deliveries of additional 24 MLRS for $300 million (about Rs 1286 crore) for 24 units. The total cost of the 'Smerch" MLRS deliveries will be $750 million (about 3,218 crore) , making it one of Russia's largest export orders for infantry weapons, the daily claimed.

The contract for the delivery of 38 "Smerch" rocket systems was signed on December 31, 2005 with the estimated value of $450 million m(about Rs 1,930 crore), including military vehicles, navigations systems, personnel training and Rosoboronexport's commission.

The first lot of weapons was to be sent to India in the spring of last year, but the Indians had some doubts about the reliability of the rocket engines. That issue has now been settled. The Smerch has a range of 90 km and barrage time of 38 sec.

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