India, Russia to ink $4 bn defence deals
In what may reaffirm Russia’s position as India’s most trusted and largest military supplier, New Delhi is expected to ink defence deals worth $ 4 billion during Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s working visit beginning on Friday.
The two almost sure-fire deals are for procuring an additional 29 MiG-29K fighters for the Indian Navy at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion. India is also expected to place orders for 50 more Sukhoi Su-30MKI multi-role fighters for the Indian Air Force. The Air Force has 120 Sukhoi fighters and it is proposed to increase the strength to 280 by 2015 to make it the mainstay of the force.
Even though there was no confirmation from the defence ministry, the Cabinet Committee on Security, which met here during the day, is believed to have approved a new offer price of $2.34 billion for the procurement of the refitted Russian aircraft carrier “Admiral Gorshkov”, as against the original contract amount of $974 million.
Rechristened “INS Vikramaditya”, the carrier is undergoing repairs and refit at the Sevmash shipyard in Russia.
As per the original contract, Russia should have handed over the carrier by 2009-end. But it is now proposed to be delivered to the Indian Navy in 2013-14, provided the revised deal is sealed during Putin’s visit.
The maritime fighters will strengthen India's brand new MiG-29K fleet, which was purchased at $1.5 billion as a part of the Gorshkov deal, under which 16 maritime fighters were procured. Four have arrived at their home base in Goa and two are expected soon.
Originally, the 29 MiG-29K fighters were to be deployed onboard the “Gorshkov”. But the delay in the delivery of the aircraft carrier prompted the Navy to look at another option.
Since there is also an inordinate delay in the development of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), which was to have been deployed onboard the indigenously developed aircraft carrier (IAC), the Navy now proposes to fly the Russian fighter aircraft from the IAC decks.
Defence Minister A K Antony stated in Parliament on Wednesday that the LCA Navy programme was lagging behind the schedule as deficiencies had been detected in the airframe and other associated equipment of the aircraft.
Coming three months after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Russia visit last December, Putin’s trip has a wider agenda which includes bilateral technological and energy cooperation.