April 17, 2007

India Orders New MKI Fighters From Russia


Russia will supply to India 18 multirole Su-30 MKI Flanker fighters under a $700 million contract signed by the arms-trading monopoly Rosoboronexport and the Indian Defence Ministry earlier this month, Russian news agency Interfax reported April 12.

Also, the first batch of 38 Smerch multiple-launch rocket systems soon will be shipped to India, as Rosoboronexport and the Defence Ministry have signed a new optional contract for these systems for $300 million. Together with the first $400 million contract signed in December 2005, the sale of the Smerch systems is Russia’s biggest contract for the land weaponry, experts said.

Rosoboronexport would neither confirm nor deny the deals with the Indians.

India has a license agreement with Russia, signed in 2000, to assemble 140 Su-MKI fighters on its soil. These jets were developed to meet the Indian military’s specifications.

The new deal, together with earlier sales in 1996 of 32 Su-30MKIs and 18 Su-30Ks, brings the value of the contracts with India to more than $5 billion.

Indian MoD officials in New Delhi said the government-to-government order for the aircraft was placed because Hindustan Aeronautics, the state-owned company that is assembling the Su-30 MKIs in India under the license agreement, cannot deliver enough planes to meet the military’s current needs.

The new order of Su-MKI fighters will be supplied under a trade-in scheme, with India returning to Russia 18 old Su-30K jets, Interfax reported, citing a senior Russian military diplomat. The new MKIs will be built by Irkut, he said. Irkut officials declined to comment.

Initially, Moscow planned to sell the Su-30Ks being returned by India — which have already logged 1,500 flight hours — to Belarus, said Konstantin Makiyenko, an analyst with the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies here. But the deal was disrupted after a fierce natural gas price war broke out between Moscow and Minsk this winter.

“Still, any solvent African country will gladly buy these jets for $12 [million] to $15 million apiece after they undergo modernization,” he said.

As for the Smerch systems, the contracted units will have to be shipped in 2008, and the optional contract should be completed in 2010. The Smerches are made at the Perm-based Motovilikhinskiye Zavody plant and by Tula-based Splav State Research and Production Association.

Each Smerch system has 12 launching tubes, its fire range is 90 kilometers, and the duration of a volley fire is 38 seconds. The systems are regarded as tactical non-nuclear weapons.

Apart from being in service in the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Belarus, Smerch missile systems have been exported to Algeria (18 units), Kuwait (27) and the United Arab Emirates (six).

Vivek Raghuvanshi contributed to this report from New Delhi.

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