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India Set to Buy 40 Russian Fighter Jets by March in Arms Spree | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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BANGALORE, India (AFP) -India expects to spend about 1.6 billion dollars to buy 40 Russian-built Sukhoi fighter planes, the air force chief said, as part of an arms purchase spree to bolster firepower.

The government expects to sign a contract to buy the Sukhoi-30 aircraft by the end of the fiscal year March 31, S.P. Tyagi told reporters at the Bangalore air show.

The fighter jets would come over a three-year delivery schedule, Tyagi told reporters at the Aero India show in the southern hi-tech hub of Bangalore.

Each plane will cost an estimated 40 million dollars, said Tyagi, adding the air force is also in the international market for 80 heavy-lift helicopters and six transporters.

The announcement came after Russian President Valdimir Putin came to India as the chief guest for the country’s Republic Day celebrations on January 26.

In addition, the government is proposing to buy 126 multi-role fighter aircraft, a deal potentially worth nine billion dollars, to replace the ageing fleet of MiG-21s — a deal which is being coveted by the giants of global aerospace.

“There’s a whole lot of hardware coming in,” Tyagi said. “We are getting a lot of goodies.”

Purchases would depend on “the price being right” and the product “being able to do what we require it to.”

Those in the running for the deal, estimated to be worth about nine billion dollars, include Russia’s MiG-35 and MiG-29, the Gripen, made by Sweden’s Saab, and the F-16 built by Lochkeed Martin and the F-18 manufactured by Boeing of the US.

The European defence and aircraft group EADS is touting its Eurofighter and France’s Dassault its fourth-generation Rafale.

Tyagi said the air force wants the contract to be awarded to a single manufacturer and ruled out buying a mix of aircraft.

“There will be global competition; one vendor will be chosen,” he said. “We have consciously taken a decision to keep the number of aircraft types small.”

India also won’t be averse to buying second-hand military aircraft “if it suits us” and they can be upgraded, Tyagi said.

The tender for the 126 planes has been in the pipeline since India said in mid-2006 that it was close to inviting bids from potential suppliers.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Wednesday that the government will float a tender “at the earliest.”

Antony’s remarks follow comments by defence secretary K.P. Singh Tuesday who said the tender could be issued by mid 2007.

India is modernising its armed forces in a programme expected to cost tens of billions of dollars, to complement accelerating economic growth running at nine percent a year.

More than 500 companies from India and overseas, including commercial and military planemakers, as well as manufacturers of aircraft engines and flight control systems, are participating in Aero India to grab a share of the military market and tap booming air travel.

India, which has fought wars with Pakistan and China since independence in 1947, has moved in recent years to improve relations with both neighbours.