India agrees to buy 59 Russian Mi-17 helicopters

The Indian government has approved the purchase of a further 59 Mi-17 helicopters from Russia, and other important deals could be sealed before the end of the year.

The Indian government’s defence procurement committee has approved the purchase of a further 59 Mi-17 transport helicopters from Russia, in addition to the 80 which were contracted at the end of 2008, the Times of India has reported. The report has been confirmed to Vedomosti by a source in the Russian defence export state corporation Rosoboronexport. The contract to supply this additional quantity of helicopters may be signed within the coming year, and the total cost of the 139 helicopters being purchased may come to approximately $2 billion, says a source in the Russian defence industry. It’s true that deliveries of the first 80 helicopters that have been bought are almost a year late against the original schedule and will begin in the spring of next year, which is linked to the need to make additional changes to the on-board equipment at the request of the Indian side, he says.

Last week in India Rosoboronexport, Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) and the Indian aircraft construction corporation HAL signed an agreement to set up a joint venture on an equal share basis – MTA Ltd – to develop a new military transport plane to replace the ageing An-12. The financial contribution of the two countries’ governments to the project will amount to around $300m, ITAR-TASS was told in Delhi by Alexander Fomin, Deputy Director of the Federal Service for Military Technical Cooperation. The creation of this venture has experienced serious delays – talks about the project have been going on for a decade, and the intergovernmental agreement on the project was concluded back in 2007.

Russian–Indian talks were held last week on another, much more important project – developing a fifth-generation fighter for the Indian Air Force on the basis of the Russian T-50 project. There are plans to sign the development contract before the end of the year, said a source in UAC. Moreover, talks are continuing up to the end of the Indian financial year (i.e. until March 2011), and a contract may be signed to supply the Indian Air Force with another 42 Su-30MKI fighters. India has now ordered a total of 230 aircraft of this type, which are assembled by HAL from components manufactured by the Irkut corporation. Several Indian media channels recently reported that the cost of one Su-30MKI under the contract that is being drawn up will be $100m, but this figure is not realistic, says Irkut spokeswoman Yelena Fedorova; according to a source in UAC, it will not significantly exceed the current price (approximately $40m each).

The successful preparation of all these new deals shows that Russia is not losing ground in the Indian defence market, says Konstantin Makienko, an expert at the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies. In recent years India has accounted for between one-third and half of all arms exports from Russia, and the country will remain a most important partner for many years to come.

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