Indian Defence Minister Off To Russia, MTA JV Agreement On Anvil

The long-awaited agreement to incorporate a joint venture company to develop and build the Ilyushin-214 based Multirole Transport Aircraft (MTA) is almost certain to be signed when Indian Defence Minister AK Antony arrived in Moscow for an official visit on October 14-15 to chair the the 9th meeting of the India-Russia Inter Governmental Commission on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC), the annual platform that the two countries use to review and discuss bilateral defence cooperation. Antony's delegation will meet with a delegation led by his Russian counterpart, AE Serdyukov. Both sides will also review the progress on the MTA, on which the Inter-Governmental Agreement was signed during the visit of PM Manmohan Singh to Moscow back in November 2007.

Antony is also all set to put down a hard stipulation that that the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), being developed in cooperation with Russia, should complete its full development phase by 2016, and inductions into the Indian Air Force must begin by 2017. Going by Russia's new penchant for delays and fantasy projections, it is not surprising that he will emphasise this point on at the commission meeting itself.

The co-development and co-production of the FGFA with Sukhoi Design Bureau Russia has been progressing, with several rounds of discussion already completed to finalize the technical requirements. In addition, the modernisation of the Su-30 MK1 aircraft is also expected to come up for discussion in the Commission’s meeting. The aircraft, contracted in 1996, are due for overhaul shortly and the Russians have offered an upgrade package that incorporates the latest relevant technologies. A deal for 50 additional Su-30MKIs (to take the total number to nearly 300 with options) is also likely to be progressed, but not signed.

The continuation of the India-Russia joint venture BrahMos is also likely to be discussed, in the context of on-going discussion for the development of the next generation hypersonic cruise missiles – BrahMos-2 and the on-going proposal to integrate the BrahMos with the Su-30 MKI fighter platform.

The extension of the existing India-Russia Long Term Inter-Governmental Agreement on the programme for Military Technical Cooperation for a further 10 years, from 2011 to 2020, will be the main focus of discussions during the meeting of the commission. India and Russia had concluded an agreement in December 1988 which envisaged a programme for defence cooperation between the two countries up to the year 2010. The anticipated discussions at the commission level would pave the way for conclusion of the Agreement during Dr Singh’s forthcoming visit to Russia in December 2009 for the Summit meeting between him and President Medvedev.

Info Abridged from DPR Defence Statement
Photo ©Shiv Aroor

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