China to Buy AWACS from Russia
Russian PM Kasyanov and Chinese officials will sign on Friday the agreement on
the procurement of A-50 planes. It will be the end of the dramatic competition
which has involved interests of China, Russia, the United States, Israel, Taiwan
and several other countries for the past few years.
The story started back in June 1997, when the Beriev aviation research and
technical company, based in the southern Russian town of Taganrog, undertook to
provide its A-50 airborne warning and control system /AWACS/ planes /which were
not equipped with the Shmel radar/ to Israel's Elta company. This enterprise was
to fit the planes with radars and sell them to China. The value of the contract
was estimated at USD600m-1bn, of which Russia was to get USD150m.
According to some reports, China was expected to get four AWACS planes, which
are referred to as A-50I in Russia and Falcon in Israel. However the supplies
were halted as the United States exercised enormous pressure on Israel.
Washington stubbornly opposed the sale of A-50I to Beijing. As a result, Israel
gave up and started searching for another client this year. Taiwan, India and
Turkey are named among the potential buyers.
That is why China turned directly to Russia with a proposal to buy modernised
A-50E planes, the paper claims. Their radar, designed on the A-50 modernisation
programme, roughly corresponds to that mounted on USD E-3 AWACS planes.