Victor M. Komardin, deputy chief of Russian defence export agency Rosoboronexport, has insinuated that the long-pending medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal for procurement of 126 fighters for the Indian Air Force (IAF) is unlikely to be inked before the general elections next year.

Addressing the media at the ongoing Namexpo (Naval and Maritime Expo) here on Tuesday, Mr. Komardin derisively commented that while contract negotiations between buyer (Air Force, in this case) and the lowest bidder (French company Dassault, which makes Rafale fighter aircraft) would normally witness the buyer asking for further lowering of price, the MMRCA negotiations saw the price almost double.

“What does this mean?” he asked, and said “not even a finger will move [to sign the deal] till the general elections are over.”

Ready in next 5 years

Mr. Komardin also said that the fifth generation fighter aircraft being jointly developed by India and Russia would be ready in the next five years, obviating the need for a less-capable fourth-generation aircraft India was poised to buy through the MMRCA deal.

He said Russia always believed in the politics of friendship and rated relationships over economics.

To a question, he said defence requirements of India had grown over the years, forcing it to look for other suppliers and partners. “Meanwhile, we are limited by our huge internal orders too,” he said, blaming the media for portraying Russia in poor light.

There was a rise in Russia’s export to India, but the rate of growth was not as much as it had been 15 years ago.

Price tag not agreeable

On the absence of an air defence system (long range surface-to-air missile or LR-SAM) on the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, he said while the carrier was being refurbished, the price of a few systems was not agreeable to the Indian side, which wanted ‘some systems reduced’.

“They kept it for a later date. Once the carrier is handed over to India, it is their decision to integrate any systems on the platform,” he said acidly.

To a question on India’s plan to retrofit the vessel with Barak 8 being jointly developed by India and Israel, he said Russia being the makers of the vessel would be in the loop while the retrofitting would be done. Mr. Komardin reeled out figures like 3,000 defence contractors visiting India last year alone to fulfil the over 50 contracts the country currently had in India.

On the status of the Multi-Role Transport Aircraft, developed by the Russian United Aircraft Corporation-Transport Aircraft and Indian Hindustan Aeronautics Limited under a Joint Venture, he said the project would take time to fructify as bureaucracy made processes cumbersome and difficult.