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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

India Signs $1.8 Billion Contract for Sukhoi Jets

NEW DELHI -- India has signed a contract to buy up to 50 Russian Sukhoi Su-30 MK fighter jets in a deal worth $1.8 billion, which military analysts said was the best India could have made to enhance defense capabilities.

"They are the best buy that India could have gone in for," Savita Pande, an analyst with the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses in the Indian capital, said Sunday.

Indian news agencies said the Indian Air Force would use the aircraft to replace 7 1/2 combat squadrons by the year 2001.

Defense Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav said India would purchase 40 Sukhoi Su-30 MK jets outright, the United News of India reported.

Each aircraft would cost $40 million, UNI said, with delivery spread over five years, beginning this year.

State-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. would produce more in India under a licensing arrangement with manufacturer Rosvooruzhenie, it added.

"They have long been in demand and constitute the front-line air defense that we have been talking about for so long," Pande said. "I disagree with people who think Russian equipment is not up to the mark."

Itar-Tass reported from Moscow on Saturday that the deal was signed between the Indian defense ministry and the Rosvooruzhenie state arms exporter in the Siberian city of Irkutsk, where the jets will be built.

India was the first country to buy Su-30s, Itar-Tass quoted Rosvooruzhenie official Valery Pogrebnikov as saying.

The Sukhoi Su-30 MK is a high-performance multi-role warplane capable of deep penetration and long endurance, UNI quoted defense officials as saying.

India has long been one of Russia's main arms buyers, and Russian officials have said they hope the value of arms deals with India this year would grow to $3.5 billion.

The Indian defense delegation that signed the deal was also looking to buy new frigates, an aircraft carrier, air defense ships and submarines from Russia, the Indian news agency said.