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India to Buy Advanced Fighter Jets from Russia

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates (l) and India's Defense Minister A K Antony in New Delhi, (2008 file photo)
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates (l) and India's Defense Minister A K Antony in New Delhi, (2008 file photo)

India will buy 250 to 300 advanced fighter jets from Russia over the next 10 years. This will be one of the biggest defense deals between the two countries.

The fifth generation stealth fighter jets that India has agreed to buy from Russia will be jointly developed and manufactured by the two countries.

India Defense Minister A. K. Antony announced the decision to procure the jets Thursday during a visit by the Russian defense minister to New Delhi.

Antony says Russia will also supply 45 multi-role transport aircraft to India.

"For the next 10 years, these two projects will be shining examples of India-Russia defense cooperation," he said.

The agreement for the fighter jets is expected to be signed in December when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits the country. Defense experts say the deal is likely to be worth about $25 to $30 billion - the biggest so far between the two countries.

Indian military officials say the new aircraft will have advanced flight and weapons control systems. They will also be more lethal and invisible to radar.

The fighter jets are expected to give a boost to the capability of the Indian air force. Air force chief P.V. Naik has said that half the weapons and equipment under his command are obsolete and need urgent replacement.

Rahul Bedi of Jane's Defense Weekly in New Delhi says the fifth generation fighter jets will be among the most modern in the world.

"It's very significant because India wants to improve its heavy fighter capability," said Bedi. "It is a huge induction of very sophisticated aircraft into the air force's inventory, and it is going to make a huge difference to the regional power of the Indian air force."

On Friday the air force celebrated its 78th anniversary with a display of aerobatics.

In a bid to upgrade the military's arsenal to counter potential threats from Pakistan and China, India has tripled its defense budget over the past decade and is now among the world's biggest defense spenders.

Russia has traditionally been one of India's largest military suppliers, although in recent years there has been some friction over cost escalation and delivery delays. Other countries supplying defense equipment to India include France, Britain, Israel and the United States.