India Prefers MiG-AT to Hawk
A ?1bn deal between India and BAe Systems to buy 66 Hawk jets appeared in deep trouble last night, after reports suggested India had ``regrettably`` decided to buy a cheaper Russian aircraft. India said on Thursday it had lost 71 military aircraft in accidents over the last three years and would buy new trainer planes and simulators to cut down the casualty rate.
Junior Minister of Defense U.V. Krishnam Raju told parliament the 71 lost air force aircraft included 10 helicopters. He said that of the 59 lost fighter planes, 35 were Russian-made MiG-21s. The government`s statement came amid fresh doubts over a US$1.42 billion proposed deal to buy 66 trainer planes from Britain. Media reports in India and Britain said long-running negotiations between BAe Systems PLc and the Indian defense ministry for supply of Hawk trainer jets had run into fresh trouble due to a dispute over price.
According to sources in the Indian defense ministry, the government had virtually ruled out purchasing the advanced trainer jets, despite 16 years of negotiations. India apparently decided the price - $21m ?15m per plane - was ``not acceptable``. Several hundred BAe Systems` jobs are at risk. According to India`s Star News TV, the Indian air force was likely to buy the Russian MiG-AT instead. The uncertified plane has not entered service yet with the Russian air force, but at US$16m is US$5m cheaper than the Hawk.
Two months ago the Indian defense minister, Yogendra Narian, said privately that his government had ``regrettably`` abandoned the British jet. A BAE Systems spokesman dismissed the media reports and said the talks with the Indian defense ministry were ``ongoing and very positive``. But most defense analysts believe the deal is dead. ``There is no denying Hawk was the choice of the Indian government. They did want to buy it. But now the deal does not seem very likely,`` said Rahul Bedi, of Janes Defence Weekly. In recent months, India has strengthened its close defense ties with Russia. The two have signed procurement contracts, including a $3bn deal for 22 MiG-29K fighters and a second hand aircraft carrier. India`s defense and foreign secretary, Jaswant Singh, visited Moscow in June, while MiG representatives are understood to have visited New Delhi in the past fortnight.
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