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Russia: Arms Exporter Hopes Fighter Plane Sale Is First Of Many

Moscow, 3 December 1996 (RFE/RL) - An official with Russia's largest arms exporter says the recently announced sale of SU-30 fighter planes to India may be the first of many to governments around the world.

Valery Pogrebenkov, spokesman for the state-run arms exporter Rosvooruzhenye, told our correspondent yesterday that more of the Sukhoi fighters may soon be sold to countries in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East.

The sales agreement was signed Saturday in the Siberian city of Irkutsk by Rosvooruzhenye officials and a delegation of Indian military officials. If all goes as planned, 40 of the two-seat SU-30 fighters with a total sale price of some $1.8 billion will be shipped to India. The South Asian nation is to become the first importer of the fighters, which were designed by Moscow-based OKB Sukhoi and manufactured by the Irkutsk Aviation Production Association.

Pogrebenkov told RFE/RL that the first eight Sukhoi-30 jets, with a unit cost of some $40 million, will be delivered to India over the next year. The rest are expected to be shipped within the next four years. Indian military officials say the Sukhoi jets will form the primary strike force of the Indian air force.

Pogrebenkov says that the deal includes what he called "a complete set of services," including warranty repairs, maintenance, and training for Indian Air Force pilots and technicians. He says Rosvooruzhenye will also "probably issue a license to manufacture SU-30s in India."

The sale re-establishes a Soviet-era link between Russian arms manufacturers and the Indian military. Before the break up of the Soviet Union, India was one of Moscow's principal arms buyers.

Our correspondent reports that more Russian military sales to India are expected. Tanks, artillery and naval ships may be among the items purchased in a major Indian military modernization.

The manufacturers of the Sukhoi-30 hope to win more sales at a five-day international air show scheduled to open today in Banglore, India. In addition to the Su-30, Su-27 and Su-36 fighters will also be on display.