New Delhi: Russia will opt for the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as its strategic partner under ‘Make in India’ for the MiG-35 and Su-35, two of the six players in the race for India’s multi-billion-dollar contract to buy 114 fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
“We believe in HAL and have a long-standing partnership with it,” said Anatoly G. Punchuk, the deputy director of the Russian Federal Service for Military Technical Cooperation, in conversation with select journalists at Aero India.
“We are in talks with HAL for a joint partnership for the new fighter jet programme,” he added.
“Both Su-35 and the MiG-35 are state of the art fighter aircraft that will be built in India jointly by us and HAL,” Punchuk said.
HAL has been caught in the political crossfire kicked up by the Rafale deal, which has seen the opposition allege that the Narendra Modi government influenced France to choose Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as an offsets partner at the cost of the state company.
In the ensuing fracas, questions have been raised about HAL’s capabilities, including by Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
Asked about the talks with Russia, HAL chairman R. Madhavan said, “Let the aircraft be selected and (then) we will talk about it (to the media)”.
No exclusivity clause
HAL, along with Mahindra Defence Systems, is also a chosen partner for US defence firm Boeing, one of the six applicants who seek to sell the 114 fighter jets India wants to buy for the IAF. Boeing has offered the F/A-18 Super Hornet.
Industry sources said this agreement may not include an exclusivity clause, which would have prohibited HAL from entering into an agreement with any other company.
Meanwhile, Punchuk said Russia was willing to come back to the negotiating table for joint development and production of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA).
India had withdrawn from the decade-old joint venture last year over differences regarding costs and work share.
“Many experts say that India is in need for FGFA and we are willing to negotiate again,” Punchuk said.