MiG's new General Director answers India questions

RAC-MiG's new General Director Anatoly Belov, who comes in at a troubled time for the legendary corporation, gave an interesting interview to Kommersant's Alexandra Gritskova and Konstantin Lantratov yesterday. These General Director types rarely give long candid interviews to their papers, so I'm putting the India-specific excerpts here. Interesting stuff:

Q. How is the Indian tender for the purchase of 126 fighter jets that MiG is participating in? India has already extended it.

Only the deadline for filing the technical-commercial proposals was extended. By one month. We turned in all materials with Rosoboronexport within the deadline. The next stage is a demonstration of the equipment for the customer.

Q. Considering India’s leisurely pace, do you expect the results of the tender soon?

Belov: India may change its plans, if necessary. But so far the process is coming along within the deadlines Delhi set at the very beginning.

Q. Rosoboronexport is conducting negotiations with India on changing the price and deadlines on the contract to deliver the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov. The contract for the delivery of the 16 MiG-29K/KUB planes includes an option to buy an additional lot of MiG’s for the ship. Can the delay with the Gorshkov interfere with those plans?

We discussed that question with the Indian side at a high level, and we were promised that the situation with the aircraft carrier would not affect our contract. In June, we will begin to train Indian pilots. In the next few months, we will hand over the first four planes to the Indian customer. They will be used for technical training for the flight and technical personnel. The other eight will be delivered by June 2009. We are waiting for information on contract deadlines from the Indian side.

Q. Do the Indians plan to build a test range like Nitki in the Crimea to imitate the decks of an aircraft carrier?

They have such plans, and we will help the Indian Navy with it. In the nearest future, plans are to train Indian pilots to fly from regular airfields. In the long term, we will train pilots on an imitation aircraft carrier. Negotiations are underway with Ukraine about that.

Q. There was an announcement in the press with references to the Indian Navy that, if the F-18 wins the tender for the 126 jet fighters, they will be delivered onto two aircraft carriers now being built alongside MiG-29K/KUB’s. How do you see that possibility?

Belov: Yes, I saw that the Indian Navy allegedly put forward such an initiative. We doubt that information. It’s not the first disinformation about the tender. As a rule, the Indian side disavows such reports.

Q. MiG Corp. has signed a contract for the modernization of 63 MiG-29 jet fighters delivered to India earlier. What are the parameters of that contract?

The total cost is about $1 billion. The first planes should arrive in Russia in the coming months so that their future technical characteristics can be worked out. Then MiG will transfer the technology for their modernization to India. Our specialists will be sent to India to assist them and MiG will provide the Indian side with all necessary equipment. All the Indian Air Force MiG-29’s will be modernized, six of them in Russia and the rest in India.

Q. Could the [Russian] Air Force declare a tender for the development of light and medium fighters of the fifth generation soon?

I assume the one heavy fighter (now being developed by Sukhoi,) will not fulfill all the tasks now before the Air Force [the PAK-FA, which India is to be a partner on]. A plane of a lighter class is objectively necessary, so we continue to work in that area.

Q. You came to MiG Corp. at a difficult moment connected with the Algerian contract. Why did you leave the prosperous Irkut Corp. for the problematic MiG?

I don’t consider MiG problematic. The situation at MiG reflected what has happened in all of the Russian aviation industry. They are the same problems, to greater or lesser degree. The most important of them had been solved through the efforts of the previous management: production reform had been begun, we participated in the Indian tender with planes from the new product line and the MiG-29K project had been brought to a successful end. I have no doubt that we will restore the authority of the MiG brand.

To read the full interview, go here.
Kommersant Photo of Belov by Sergey Mikheev

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