Russia Sells India New Jets, Takes Back Old

Rosoboronexport has signed a $500-million contract with India for the delivery of 18 Su-30MKI fighter jets and the purchase from it of 18 used Su-30K models at a price that reflects their amortization. The contract has been under negotiation since the end of 2005. That will make it possible to conclude one more contract, for $1.6 billion. Rosoboronexport has declined to discuss the deal.

The Su-30K planes from India may be resalable in African horn, Southeast Asia or the Arabian peninsula to countries of modest means where the likelihood of armed conflict is high. The Su-30K planes were delivered to India between 1997 and 1999. Each of them has about 1500 flight hours and requires an overhaul for about $12 million. A new Su-30 MKI costs $40 million.

The 18 used planes were originally planned to be purchased last year for resale to Belarus. Unofficial sources say that the planes may have been intended for sale to Syria or Eritrea through Belarus. That deal fell through when Russia and Belarus came into conflict over the price of Russian natural gas, however. Last month, Minsk officially denied that Russian weapons were being resold through Belarus to the Middle East.

Irkut took out a bank credit in advance to build the India-bound fighter jets and has already completed 12 of them. The remaining planes may be completed by the end of this year. With that deal complete, negotiations can be resumed over the delivery of an additional 40 kits for the licensed assembly of Su-30MKI models in India.