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MOSCOW: Even as India and Russia prepare to end the row over price escalation for aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov during Defence Minister A. K. Antony this week, new problems may crop up in the wide-ranging defence cooperation between the two countries.
Defence sources in Russia and India said a deal on a higher price for Gorshkov, rechristened INS Vikramaditya, may be inked on the sidelines of the Mr. Antony’s visit on October 13-15.
However, a Russian source suggested the possibility of further delays in Gorshkov delivery. The Vedomosti business daily quoted an unnamed Russian Defence industry official as saying that the vessel might be handed over to the Indian Navy in 2013, a year later than promised earlier.
A leading Russian Defence expert said another joint project — a medium-haul military transport aircraft (MTA) — had hit rough waters. The project has fallen badly behind schedule, analyst Konstantin Makienko of the CAST think tank claims.
Under the original accord signed in 2001 between Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., the first prototype of the MTA was to have been built by 2006 and series production launched in 2009. However, “As of late 2009, the project has not progressed beyond the schematic design stage it had reached six years ago, while its internal structure and its competitive environment have deteriorated dramatically,” the expert wrote in Defence Brief magazine.
The expert lists several negative factors affecting the MTA: the Irkut Corporation has pulled out of the project; Russia revived its joint project with Ukraine for a rival aircraft, An-70; and the Brazilian Embraer has embarked on a new tactical tanker and transport aircraft, KC-390, which is likely to beat the MTA in the world market.
A Russia aviation industry spokesman said the MTA project was very much alive despite the delays, which he explained as teething problems of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC).
UAC spokesman Konstantin Lantratov told The Hindu that a Russian-Indian Joint Venture for the MTA would be signed after the UAC sets up a commercial aircraft division early next month.
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