x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Russia bruised in fight for Indian contract

The US, Sweden and now Russia are all out of the contest to build India's so-called medium multirole combat aircraft.

The contest to build India's so-called medium multirole combat aircraft has left more than just US fighter jets out of the final evaluation. Also left behind were Sweden's Gripen jet and the Russian MiG-35. The development was a huge blow for Russia's aerospace industry in particular, which has been the biggest supplier to the Indian air force over the past 50 years.

Until 2005, when the US government began allowing American companies to sell aerospace technology to India, it was the USSR and then Russia that benefited most from India's growing defence acquisitions.

The two countries were allies for decades, a relationship that proved to be a boon to the Soviet arms industry.

Over the years, India has purchased hundreds of Russian aircraft, including Sukhoi and Mikoyan (MiG) fighter jets, Beriev early-warning and control aircraft, and Ilyushin and Antonov aerial refuelling tankers. Its missile defence system is also primarily made up of Soviet-manufactured rockets including the much vaunted S-300 surface-to-air missile system.

The strong historical ties between the two countries also helped India build up its local aerospace and defence industries through partnerships with Soviet companies.

The two countries have embarked on joint military initiatives including programmes to develop cruise missiles, aircraft carriers, a next-generation fighter jet and tactical transport aircraft.

But this year, relations between the two countries have appeared to fray, with the MiG-35 being dropped from the MMRCA contest. Last month, Russia reportedly cancelled two war games with India, apparently as a response to its warplane being eliminated from the fighter contest.

igale@thenational.ae