Moscow: Indian Prime minister Manmohan Singh''''s visit to Russia has yielded an agreement on another joint defence project that has been hanging fire for a very long time - a multi-role transport aircraft (MTA).
The intergovernmental agreement for the co-development and co-production of a new multi-role transport aircraft was signed by India''''s ambassador to Russia, Prabhat Shukla, and Mikhail Dmitriyev, director of the Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation, on behalf of Russia.
The new generation MTAs will eventually replace the aging Russian designed medium-range AN-32 fleet of the Indian Air Force.
It is expected that of a total project investment of $600 million, both parties will share costs on a 50:50 basis. Only in Russia''''s case their contribution of $300 million would be paid out of a Soviet-era debt that India owes to Russia, and which has now been regularised under a rouble-rupee agreement.
This outstanding debt, estimated to stand at $1 billion, will now be diverted to fund the joint aircraft project. It may be mentioned here that reports earlier in the year had also mentioned that part of the debt would be used to finance a joint venture to produce titanium, widely used in military-oriented and aerospace products.
Meanwhile, the requirement for the MTA as envisaged stands at 100 aircraft for the Russian air force and 45 for the IAF. The two countries also plan to sell at least 60 aircraft to third countries.
The MTA project will be a joint collaboration between Bangalore-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Rosoboronexport agency of Russia.
This inter-governmental agreement is quite similar to the one signed during defence minister AK Antony''''s visit to Russia during which the two countries signed an agreement for the joint development and production of a fifth generation fighter aircraft, official sources said.
The development and certification of the new aircraft is expected to be complete within six years. The IAF currently operates a fleet of around 70 An-32 aircraft.
The new MTA would be centred on the Il-214 design.