By Anjali Ojha

Moscow–India and Russia hope to conclude a contract to purchase an additional 48 Mi-17 V5 medium lift helicopters by the end of this year, an official here said.

Aleksandr Mikheev, CEO of Rosoboronexport, the state agency for exporting defence equipment from Russia, said price negotiations are to start by August.

“We are holding negotiations with a view to sign a contract for 48 Mi-17 V5 helicopters. In July-August, we are starting price and contract negotiations within the framework of the applicable Indian procedure and we hope that we will reach agreement before the end of this year,” Mikheev told this visiting IANS correspondent.

“Our Indian partners know the programme very well. They have more than 300 helicopters belonging to the Mi-8 and Mi-17 family,” he added.

India at present has more than 150 Mi-17 V5 helicopters, the last of which were delivered in January 2016. Most of the Mi-8s have, however, been phased out while some of the Mi-17s are still flying.

The Mi-17 V5 is based on the Mi-8 airframe and is one of the most advanced aircraft of the Mi-8/17 family.

The helicopters are equipped with night vision technology, all-weather radar, a new PKV-8 autopilot system and a KNEI-8 avionics suite.

The sturdy choppers have been the mainstay of the Indian Air Force in a number of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

The choppers were also deployed during the 2008 Mumbai terror attack when it enabled commandos of the National Security Guard to rapel down to the Chabad House in Colaba where a few of the attackers were holed up. They are also said to have been pressed into service during the surgical strikes carried out on Pakistani terror launch pads across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir in September 2016.

The chopper’s TV3-117BM turboshaft engines are rated at 1,900 hp each, giving it a greater service and hovering ceiling, and have proved efficient in the tough mountain terrain of the Himalayas.

Mikheev added that India and Russia are also discussing the modernisation of the Sukhoi SU-30MKI fighters.

“During a period of 15 years, we have fulfilled all our obligations to the Indian party, the HAL. We have supplied about 200 aircraft under the licence agreement and are offering the new developments of our design bureaus,” Mikheev said.

“Moreover, the Indian Air Force has some requirements for improvement of performance and operational characteristics, mainly with regard to avionics and electronic warfare systems, as well as updates of weapon systems by both Indian and Russian companies,” he added.

Asked about the S-400 Triumf long range air defence missile system, a contract for which was signed during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India last year, Mikheev said negotiations were on.

“As of today, we are carrying out technical consultations with the Indian party. We have already shown our equipment in both the field-testing, range-practice conditions,” he said.

“Rosoboronexport is performing all the work aimed at signing of the contract as soon as possible, based on the feedback from the Indian party,” he said, adding: “I’d like to note that today the Indian party does not have any such systems as the S-400.”

The deal is estimated to be worth over $5-billion (over Rs 32,000 crore).

The missile system, which has been deployed in Syria, where Russia is targeting the Islamic State, can destroy incoming hostile aircraft, missiles and even drones at ranges of up to 400 km and will prove to be a game changer for India, experts said. (IANS)