Russia Challenges Pretenders to Role of India`s Military Supplier

 
IL Serge Pod #17.08.2001 09:11
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Russia Challenges Pretenders to Role of India`s Military Supplier

Russia is pushing its way back into the competition with Britain, France and Israel to offer high-technology defence equipment to its long-time military ally, India, reports AFP.

A flurry of high-level visits has brought Russia back into the reckoning after India looked to be favouring technologically superior Western armament firms.
Moscow`s most recent achievement has been to rekindle New Delhi`s interest in the Russian version of the Advanced Jet Trainers AJT required by the Indian Air Force.

The 1.66-billion-dollar contract seemed to have been sealed by British Aerospace with its ``Hawk`` AJTs being favoured above the French Alphajet and Russian MiG-AT.

But now the Russians would appear to be back in the running.
``We accepted the MiG-AT as an option after they made a presentation during Defence Minister Jaswant Singh`s visit to Moscow in June,`` an Indian defence ministry spokesman said.

``The deal is, however, not yet clinched and is still open to negotiations at several levels.``Another ministry official said the Alphajet was now considered ``a poor third.``The Russian Aerospace Agency argued in June that the MiG-AT was cheaper by some five million US dollars compared to the Hawk`s reported tag of 21 million dollars.

``MiG-AT is one of the best trainers in the world and Russia would welcome any deal with India for the supply of AJT`s,`` agency chief Yuri Koptyev was quoted as saying last week.

The air force reportedly wants New Delhi to dump the Russian offer, arguing that its delivery schedule of more than six years — compared to three years for the Hawk — could create havoc with training schedules.

``The decision on this AJT deal will be finally based on the political bonhomie between the two countries,`` a New Delhi-based Western diplomat said.
During Jaswant Singh`s trip to Moscow, Russia offered to build a national air defence shield for India and co-develop other high-tech military equipment.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Illya Klebanov visited India in February, three months after the signing of a three-billion dollar deal to locally produce 140 Russian Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter planes in India.

Meanwhile, official sources said the Indian Air Force had dissuaded the government from an outright purchase of Israel`s Phalcon Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems AWACS.

``The air force is pressing for a cocktail of an Israeli rotordome on a Russian Ilushin-76 platform and backed up by indigenous AWACS software,`` one source said, adding that negotiations were now on to build three such AWACS by ``Of course, Israel may not agree to compromise on the sale of composite Phalcons,`` he said.

``But Russia has a valid argument that since we have a fleet of Ilushin aircraft it could easily extend a support base to Il-76-converted AWACS.``
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is set to visit Moscow in November in the wake of the state visit to India in October last year by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

With China, India buys some 80 per cent of the four billion dollars` worth of weapons sold each year by Russia, which is currently the world`s fourth biggest arms exporter, after the United States 26 billion dollars, Britain 10 billion dollars and France 6.6 billion dollars.

AFP
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