NEW DELHI: Russia is all set to reassert its numero uno status in the Indian defence market with another mega arms deal. The two nations are now poised to ink the around $1.2 billion contract for 29 more MiG-29K fighter jets for Indian Navy.
A Russian team will arrive in New Delhi this week to finetune the contract after it got the approval of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, top defence sources said.
“The defence ministry is also now also seeking CCS approval for the fresh contract for aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov’s refit, with the renegotiated price of slightly over $2.3 billion,” said a source.
The two new contracts will further consolidate Russia’s position as the largest defence supplier to India, having notched defence sales worth over $35 billion since the 1960s.
Though Israel is now nipping at the heels of Russia, and the US too has bagged some big defence deals in recent times, Moscow will continue to retain its lead for the foreseeable future.
India, after all, already has over $15 billion worth of ongoing arms contracts and projects in the pipeline with Russia. Bitter wrangling over the huge cost escalation in Gorshkov’s refit had led to a distinct chill between India and Russia.
But with matters resolved now, India is also on course to formally join the $10 billion Russian project to build the Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA fifth-generation stealth fighter.
The 29 new MiG-29Ks will be in addition to the 16 jets already contracted in the initial $1.5 billion Gorshkov package deal in January 2004. Incidentally, only $974 million had been earmarked for Gorshkov’s refit at that time.
Rechristened INS Vikramaditya, Gorshkov will now be delivered to India by early-2013 or so. But three of the 16 original MiG-29Ks have already arrived at the Goa
naval airbase to constitute the 303 `Black Panthers’ squadron, with the next three slated to follow shortly.
MiG-29Ks will operate from the 44,570-tonne Gorshkov as well as the 40,000-tonne indigenous aircraft carrier being built at Cochin Shipyard, which should roll out by 2014-2015.
Armed with eight types of air-to-air missiles, including extended range BVR (beyond visual range) missiles, as well as 25 air-to-surface weapons for land-attack missions, MiG-29Ks will provide Navy with a lethal punch on the high seas.
While 12 of the first 16 fighters will be the single-seat ‘K’ variants, the other four will be twin-seater ‘KUB’ trainer versions. Similarly, four of the next 29 jets will be ‘KUB’ trainer versions. — TOI