September 4th, 2006:
Russia will accelerate deliveries of Su-30MKI fighters to India, completing the
delivery of 140 aircraft in 2014, instead of 2017. Due to soaring costs of local
production, India waived its demand for "indigenization" of the aircraft.
Following the conclusion of an agreement signed recently between Russian arms
export agency Rosoboronexport and the Indian Defence Ministry, Hindustan
Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has scrapped its plans for full indigenization of the
warplane at its facilities in India. The original Sukhoi license production deal
signed in December 2000 was the largest single Indo-Russian defense contract in
40 years. Russia, which has so far supplied 26 kits to HAL for the assembly of
Su-30MKI, would earn an additional USD 350 million through the supply of
components by its companies, which otherwise would have been produced by HAL.
Sources in Russian supplier of Su-30MKI fighters Irkut Corporation have said
that the deal could be closed even by 2012.
With the demise of local SU-30MKI production, HAL is promoting
the ongoing LCA and future Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (future successor for the
MiG-21) to be among the highlights of its future activity. At an Aerospace
Supplier's conference to be held in India this week, HAL is expecting to
introduce some of its programs to potential partners, primarily the indigenous
Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA), expected to be fielded with the Indian Air
Force (IAF) by 2008 - 2010. Four companies from the US are attending, including
Lockheed Martin, which has already been interested to partner with the F-16
aircrafts, which is already on offer for local production in India. Other
companies include engine producers General Electric and Pratt & Whitney, and
Raytheon. Other companies interested in the program include BAE Systems (UK),
Elbit Systems (Israel).
Cooperation with foreign providers is essential for the LCA program, as
according to the vogue deployment schedule, which could be delayed from 2010 to
2012, the aircraft will not have all locally produced systems, such as engine
and radar. The first two squadrons will be powered by GE-404 engines imported
from the US owing to delays in developing the indigenous Kaveri engine. The cost
of the indigenously developed engine soared by 700% through its unending
development process. If production schedule is to pursue, the Indians may also
look for a replacement of their troubled multi-mode radar. Potential
replacements could include systems proposed from IAI/Elta the US AN/APG-67 from
HAL is moving forward with local production and support
for MiG-29 engines, gearing up for the local production of 120 Klimov
RD-33 series 3 extended life-cycle jet engines at its Koraput plant. The engine
deal was recently signed with Rosobornexport, under a US$250 million contract.
The new engines will be used to upgrade the MiG-29 fighters. The Modernization
of 66 MiG-29s currently operational with the IAF is expected to be signed this
month as part of a US$1 billion program. The first 20 engines will be supplied
by the Moscow-based Chernyshev Machine-building plant, to be used for trials.
The new engine will introduce critical technologies which could be helpful in
the local production of future thrust-vectoring (TV) engines. TV engines are
destined for the MiG-35, one of several fighter planes competing for the $9
billion Indian tender for 126 advanced combat jets.
Last week HAL also signed an Memorandum of Understanding
regarding to establish long-term strategies with EADS. Both companies have
already established cooperation on several projects, primarily with EADS's
subsidiary Eurocopter, which recently subcontracted all airframe production for
Ecureuil type helicopters to HAL. The first airframe will be delivered to
Eurocopter before the end of this year. The Fennec, the military version
of the Ecureuil series, is one of the two helicopters short-listed by the
Ministry of Defence for replacing the current Cheetah / Chetak fleet of the
Indian Army in the near future.