M A I N   N E W S

India to get 40 Sukhois
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Bangalore, February 8
‘Goodies’ is how the Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief S P Tyagi describes flying machines. And the IAF is set to acquire them by a handful with the signing of the final contract for 40 Russian Sukhoi-30 combat jets, to be finalised by the end of the financial year.

Among the other aircraft in line for acquisition by the IAF include 80 medium-lift helicopters, six 130-J Hercules tankers, 12 VIP copters, Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) and 10 Cheetah choppers. The IAF also expects to get the first delivery of the Advanced Jet Trainer - Hawk - produced by British Aerospace this year.

Addressing the press at the Aero-India show here today, the Air Chief said, “The government has cleared the purchase of 40 Sukhoi aircraft. We will sign the contract in this financial year.” He said the delivery of the aircraft, which would cost around $ 40 million each, would begin in three years’ time.

Speaking about the purchases from the foreign vendors, Air Marshall Tyagi said negotiations were going on with regard to the C130 Hercules aircraft. “The price has to be right,” he said, adding the IAF needed the Hercules for a special role and not for cargo purposes.

The Air Chief, who was accompanied by Air Chief designate Air Marshall Fali Major, also made it clear that the country would not split the 126 fighter jet order, whose global tenders were likely to be issued soon. “We will go for a single vendor only,” said, adding the selected vendor would supply one squadron directly. “Following this we will make the others under a joint production programme. As we will be making the aircraft we can increase the numbers if needed,” he said.

The Air Chief, who refused to list his achievements when asked for the same, admitted to some shortcomings of the IAF, including an ageing fleet. He said the IAF was also examining the option to acquire modified aircraft. He said the IAF had tried to purchase second-hand Mirage-2000 fighters from Qatar but the deal did not work out. He said the upgrades of the MIG-29 and Mirage-2000 were in the running and would include fitting them with better avionics. “This is part of our strategy to upgrade technology wherever needed, go in for joint production-based purchases as well as fill gap through outright purchases.”

When questioned whether the Russians had given any assurance that they would not supply their RD-33 engines for the JF-17 fighters being built for them by China, he said the Russians had assured this would not happen. The Air Marshall said the country would have to reconcile to common vendors for both India and Pakistan in some cases as was already happening in the case of the Mirage. “We have to navigate through the problem in the best-possible way,” he added. 



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