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|Online Edition Published from New Delhi, India Dated 23/03/2006|
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Russia hardsells the MiG 29 to Indian Air Force
Agency: Rajat Pandit for Times of India
Topics: india indian air force military defense
New Delhi: Young IAF pilots prefer Mirages over F-16s. But the Mirage assembly lines are now being shut down. Though French defence minister Michele Alliot-Marie told her Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee last month that the lines could be kept open if India gave "firm indications", France itself is pushing the Rafale now.
"If not the much-cheaper Mirage, go for Rafale. At more than $70 million per jet, Rafale is no doubt very expensive but itís of the latest generation and packs a mean punch. If not 126, we can go in for a lesser number of Rafales," says a Wing Commander.
But what about the American jets? The US is even promising spin-offs from its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F\A-22 Raptor programmes, as also the AESA radars, in the deal.
Pilots do not seem too keen on F-16s, which they say havenít fared too well either "across the border" or in joint exercises with India.
But they feel the much-more expensive F/A-18s, if equipped with AESA radars which make fighters much more lethal, could provide India with a decisive technological edge.
Russia, in turn, is also hardselling its MiG-29M2s. Russian PM Mikhail Fradkovís visit last week saw Moscow telling New Delhi that MiG-29M2s were "1.5 times cheaper" than new entrants in the race like Rafale.
"Russians have their problems of delayed projects and unreliable spare supply but they give access to everything, unlike the Americans," says an officer.
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