Russia's Weapons Top Customer India

MOSCOW - India bought more Russian weapons last year than any othercountry, and recent deals seem likely to solidify that status,Alexander Fomin, the deputy director of the Russian Federal Service forMilitary and Technical Cooperation, told Russian official ITAR-TASSnews agency Sept. 9.

A bilateral 2009 agreement set broad goals for military and technical cooperation, Fomin said.

 India and Russia have ended preliminary talks over an accord tojointly develop fifth-generation fighter and will each pledge $6billion to build an aircraft to challenge U.S. F-22 Raptor, IndianBusiness Standard newspaper reported Sept. 11, quoting Ashok Nayak,chairman of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The accord isexpected to be signed in December when the Russian President DmitryMedvedev visits India.

India surpassed China in 2007 withpurchases of Russian arms worth $1.5 billion. In 2008, Algeria pulledahead of India. But in 2009, New Delhi regained the lead, importingRussian arms worth $1.78 billion, twice as much as China's $848million, according to the Center for Analysis of International ArmsTrade, a local think tank.

For the nearest four years - from 2010to 2013 - India will remain the biggest client, accounting for 54.4percent, or $15.16 billion, of the Russian foreign defense ordersportfolio for this period, according to the center. Vietnam's ordersfor this period come second in size, reaching $3 billion.
IndianAir Force plan to procure 59 Mi-17 (NATO name: Hip) helicopters inaddition to the 80 ordered from Russia in 2008, The Times of Indiareported Sept. 9, quoting Indian Defense Ministry officials.

Asource in the Russian government arms export agency Rosoboronexportconfirmed the ongoing talks and the 2008 contract, but refused todisclose details other than saying that India will start receiving thefirst helicopters by year's end. Analysts here estimate that 139 Mi-17swould cost about $2 billion.

On Sept. 9, Russia and India signedan agreement to set up a joint venture to co-develop a multi-roletransport aircraft to replace the Indian Air Force's obsolete An-12swithin the next decade, Fomin told reporters. Each country pledged $300million to the effort to develop a 2,500-km range aircraft that cancarry 20 tons of cargo.

Also, a representative of Russia's Irkutcompany said Sept. 14 that talks are going on with India over buying 42Su-30MKI fighter jets. India has already ordered 230 Su-30MKI assemblykits from Irkut, which are being assembled by the HAL. Expert estimatethe price tag for each Su-30 fighter to be at about $40 million.

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