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5th-gen aircraft, BRAHMOS-NG missile on agenda as Russian def min heads to New Delhi

An exclusive photo highlighting the BRAHMOS missile and BRAHMOS-NG comparison. Photo: BrahMos.

NEW DELHI (PTI): Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoygu will arrive here Tuesday on a three-day visit to hold talks with his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar and review the ongoing cooperation and future prospects in the crucial sector.

During the talks, the Russian side is expected to raise the issue of the much-delayed joint production of a Fifth- Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and BRAHMOS-NG (Next Generation) missile.

It is also expected to discuss Russian President Vladimir Putin's offer last month to produce the 'Kamov' military helicopters in India, among other things.

The question of a possible lease of a second nuclear submarine from Russia could also come up in the meeting that is being held just days ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit to the country.

Currently, India operates an 8,140-tonne Akula Class submarine -- renamed the INS Chakra -- which was leased in 2011 from Russia for a period of 10 years.

The issues would feature as part of discussions as the two counterparts chair the 13th meeting of the Russian-Indian Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-MTC).

"The two ministers will review the progress made so far and the future scope," defence sources said.

One of the most important deals in the works between India and Russia at present is the FGFA. A Russian team was in the national capital last month to discuss the deal and iron out any differences.

India has said that the basic prototype of the plane is already flying and the Indian version had just a few variations, hence a full-fledged R&D contract would be a waste of time and resources, official sources said.

The preliminary design agreement on the FGFA had been signed in 2010 between HAL and the Russian Sukhoi Design Bureau to build the jet for use by both countries.

But the final R&D contract, which was to be signed by 2012, is still to be finalised. The contract would pave the way for prototype development and flight testing.

Russia is also expected to push for a key deal for the joint development of a BRAHMOS-NG missile. However, sources said that a tripartite agreement in this regard is unlikely to be signed between DRDO, NPOM lab of Russia and BrahMos Aerospace.

The Russian Minister will also be visiting the BrahMos aerospace centre in the national capital.

The NG missile will have a speed of Mach 3.5 and can carry a payload of 300-kg up to a range of 290-km. In terms of size, it will be about half that of the present missile, which is around 10-metres long.

BrahMos Aerospace, an Indo-Russian joint venture firm set up in 1998, feels that the new missile could be inducted into service by 2017 and there would be a huge market for it in India and Russia and among friendly foreign countries.

The BRAHMOS missile can be launched from land, air and marine-based platforms.

While the army and navy have already started inducting land and sea-based Brahmos missile systems, the air launch variant is set for trials soon.

Meanwhile, the Russian Defence Minister will also be visiting Agra.

During Putin's visit last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that even though India's options have increased, Russia will remain the country's "most important" defence partner.

Modi had also proposed that Russia should locate manufacturing facilities in India for spares and components of defence equipment procured from it and said that Putin had responded "very positively" to the request.

India remains Russia's largest partner in the military- technical cooperation sphere.

Nearly 70 per cent of the weapons and military equipment used by the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy is either Russian or came from the erstwhile Soviet Union.


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