India Drops Hawks to Snap Up Migs
India`s reneging on its Hawk deal rocked the world arms market as Russia snatched the most lucrative contract from the British, dramatically changing the ranking of the world`s aircraft makers. It is now safe to say that the scale on one of the world`s most promising arms market that of Asia - is tipping in Russia`s favor.
India`s decision to buy MiG-ATs astounded BA Systems, which for two years had been negotiating a contract for Hawk 100 training planes to be supplied to that country. India had agreed to buy 66 such planes from Britain for a total sum of about $ 1.6 billion. In August 2000, India`s then Defense Minister George Fernandes told parliament that a decision on the purchase would be taken within a few weeks.
Snatching away a contract from a potential supplier is regarded as normal practice on the world arms market, where suppliers` behavior is anything but gentlemanly. One need only recall how the Americans did Russia out of the contract to sell Greece S-300 antiaircraft missile systems by getting that country to buy Patriot long-range antiaircraft missile complexes. That happened just days before the Russia-Greece contract was to be signed.
In its defense budget for 2001-2002, India had even provided for $ 1.5 billion to finance the Hawk deal. But the delivery of the British planes could have started no earlier than 2004, and this must have been a factor that decided India to cancel the deal.
However, the main advantage of the Russian-French MiG-AT over the Hawk is the price $ 13.5 million to $ 16 million against $ 21 million to $ 25 million, depending on the set of aviation equipment to be provided
. Besides, 70% of the aircraft in the Indian Air Force are Russian-made, and Indian pilots who got their training on the MiG-AT will find it easier to adjust to handling Russian-made fighter jets.
Russia and France offer to deliver to India 20 MiG-AT planes within 18 months of the contract signing. Another 20 planes can be built in Russia, and the remaining 20 can be manufactured under license in India. So, on the whole Russia is offering India better terms. And India is well aware that it is a good bargain.
As it happens, the Indian Air Force badly needs training planes, while no more than 65% of its combat planes are in good repair. The pilots` flying hours amount to barely a third of the established yearly norm of 300 hours. Since 1991, the Indian Air Force has lost as many as 200 planes owing to accidents caused mainly by the so-called human factor.
On the day the scale tipped in our favor, the MiG corporation was asked about the details of the contract; it declined to give any details, saying premature disclosure could jeopardize the contract about to be signed. But your correspondents managed to find out the opinion of the MiG corporation`s general director, Nikolai Nikitin. He said: ``The serial production of the MiG-AT training plane is economically expedient provided there is an order for no less than 50 planes. The completely ready-made planes can be delivered to the customer 15 to 18 months after the contract has been signed. Besides India, Greece and a number of other countries have also been showing interest in the MiG-AT.``Moscow NewsAVIA.RU - Информационное агентство "Российская авиация и космонавтика"