50 indigenous T-90 tanks to roll out this year

"The 50 T-90 tanks would roll out soon this year, as part of the Transfer of Technology agreement," a top Defence Ministry official said here on Friday.

"The indigenous production under technology transfer was part of the discussion that an Indian team led by Defence Secretary Vijay Singh had in Moscow this week," he said.

The production of 50 T-90 tanks would enable the Army to raise an armoured regiment by the end of this year.

New Delhi had signed for 310 T-90 tanks in February 2001 in a USD 795 million deal, under which the first lot of 124 tanks were picked off the shelf and another 186 imported in a semi-knocked-down condition for assembly in Avadi-based Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF) near Chennai.

In 2006, India also decided to indigenously produce nearly 1,000 T-90s under a technology transfer agreement with Russia to make it the backbone of its Army's armoured vehicles strength. The indigenous production was to take place till 2020.

Last year, India placed an add-on order for additional 330 T-90 tanks, indicating it would be its MBT for the next decade or so.

India also "reiterated commitment" to the joint Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) projects with Russia, apart from indigenous production of Invar and Konkur-M missiles, during the high-level monitoring committee meeting this week.

"These two are extremely important projects. The FGFA will be close to the US' F-22 Raptors in its capabilities. The commitments on funds for the MTA project is still to be worked out," the official said.

There were discussions on India's 2007 order for 40 Su-30 fighter aircraft that would be bought off-the-shelf from Russia and on midlife upgrade of the existing fleet of Su-30s bought from Russia in 1996.

Asked if the talks also included the Akula-class Nerpa nuclear-powered submarine to India, the official said though the matter had not come up during discussions, the accident during sea trials of the submarine last year was "a setback" and that the Russians had dealt with the problem.

On the Russian IL-76 platforms for the Israeli Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS), the official said India had stressed on sticking to delivery schedules.

If IAF would get more AWACS, he said: "At the moment, not more than the three AWACS already ordered." IAF has got delivery of its first AWACS last week under a tri-partite deal among India, Russia and Israel.

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