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India, Russia to make fighter variant for Malaysia

By Sandeep Dikshit

NEW DELHI APRIL 20. In a move of far-reaching consequence, India and Russia will work together to produce a variant of the state-of-the art Su-30 MK `I' fighter jet for Malaysia.

With India set to manufacture 140 SU-30 MK `I' aircraft in India under Russian licence, the acquisition of similar aircraft by Malaysia can affect the region's security balance. The presence of Su-30 jets by India and Malaysia can to some extent neutralise the Chinese numerical lead in fighter aircraft in the region. China has a large fleet of the less superior Su-27 fighter jets and is expected to acquire a Su-30 variant by 2005.

According to Alexey Fedorov, president of Irkut Corporation, the manufacturers of Su series of aircraft, his company is well disposed towards the Indian strategy of mastering the full cycle of the creation of an aircraft, right from research and production to upgrades. Mr. Fedorov's observations have aroused much interest here, especially in view of his visit to India next week to participate in a seminar on the new challenges and opportunities in Indian and Russian defence industries.

Irkut is refashioning itself because of the global trend towards consolidations. Today, the trend is to form four or five aerospace corporations on a global scale, which will tend to divide among themselves the major markets of military and civil aviation equipment. India figures prominently in this strategy.

According to Mr. Fedorov, Irkut, engaged in many countries of South-East Asia and the Asian Pacific region, is already feeling the synergetic effect of the Russian-Indian interaction. ``I mean our participation in the Malaysian tender,'' he underlined, adding that the Su-30 MKM offered to Malaysia is basically a derivative of Su-30 MKI. ``The positive mood of Malaysia with regard to Su-30 MKM aircraft in many respects stems from the successful implementation of the MKI project and the practical result achieved by the Russian and Indian participants in the project.''

During the course of talks held with Malaysian officials, Irkut was busy exploring the possibility of setting up a regional centre for integrated logistical support for Su-30 MKI in India. The Sukhoi chief was confident that in future Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) will be active in cooperating with the Malaysian Air Force in providing their Sukhoi fleet with spares and technical service.

``Convergence and mutual interpenetration of Russian and Indian high-tech complexes must follow the chosen logic of further augmentation and expansion of cooperation between the leading aircraft manufacturing corporations.

This logic is fully in line with the political reference marks outlined by the top management of both countries and the realities of strategic partnership,'' he observed during the Defence Minister, George Fernandes' recent Moscow visit.

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