India, Russia sign defence deals during Putin's visit

Singapore
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Russia has concluded a challenging 2012 in India with three deals involving additional fighter aircraft and helicopters.

The deals were concluded during a visit by Russian president Vladimir Putin on 26 December. Although there was no official announcement of the deals' value, un-sourced media reports put the value in the region of $3 billion.

The first deal occurred just prior to Putin's visit, and saw India's state-owned aircraft maker Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) sign a deal with the ministry of defence for an additional 42 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft, which HAL produces under licence.

The deal was not unexpected, because New Delhi has orders for 272 Su-30MKIs, of which over 150 have been delivered. An industry source familiar with the programme says India has plans to operate up to 350 examples of the type.

Russian Helicopters also made two announcements associated with Putin's visit.

In the first deal, Russian state arms export firm Rosoboronexport signed an agreement with India's defence ministry for an additional consignment of MiL Mi-17 V5 helicopters. Russian Helicopters said the Mi-17 buy falls under a contract originally signed in 2008 for 80 examples of the type.

The other helicopter deal will see Russian Helicopters form a joint venture with an Indian private firm, Elcom Systems Group, to produce both Kamov and MiL helicopters in India.

"The joint venture will have the capacity to produce key helicopter units and carry out final assembly of the machines as well as engage in ground and flight testing," says Russian Helicopters. "It is expected that the enterprise will start with production of components for the multi-role Ka-226T helicopter. The enterprise will serve as an industrial base for hi-tech Russian rotorcraft products in India."

The announcements follow two notable setbacks for Russian Helicopters in India during 2012. In early December, New Delhi tapped the Boeing CH-47F Chinook as the final candidate in the competition for 15 heavy lift helicopters, beating Russia's Mil Mi-26 helicopter. New Delhi has also short-listed the AH-64D Apache in a competition for 22 attack helicopters, eliminating the Mi-28.

Moreover, industry observers believe the Airbus Military A330 multi-role tanker transport is likely to defeat the Ilyushin IL-78MK in a competition for six tankers.