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By Bulbul Singh

07 Nov 06. India is procuring advanced engines from Russia for use in its homegrown Lakshya Pilotless Target Aircraft. Sources in India’s defense research agency, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) say the engines being bought from Russia are also being used for Russian cruise missiles. These engines could also be used for powering the homegrown Lakshya and used as a cruise missile with a range of over 600 kilometers. India has accelerated the development of homegrown cruise missiles after Pakistan test fired its homegrown Babur cruise missile last year.

The engines will be procured from NPO Saturn of Russia for unspecified numbers of engines for Lakshya Pilotless Aircraft which will be able to operate for more then six hours at a stretch. Sources in DRDO said the engine supplied by NPO Saturn will be based on the engine originally designed for Soviet cruise missiles. The engine will be used in Lakshya to power the pilotless aircraft UAV and operate as a cruise missile with a range of over 600 kilometers.

However, Indian defence ministry official say all is not clear for the inking of the contract, as the supply of engines of this quality and capability can fall under the Missile Technology Regime which prohibits the supply of equipment for medium range missiles. The official stressed that there is no transfer of technology involved so the deal can pass the international Missile Technology Regime restrictions.

Diplomats in the Russian Embassy in New Delhi refused to give details but confirmed that the deal for the supply of engines for use in Lakshya from Russia are in an advanced stage. The deal could be formally inked during the forthcoming visit of the Russian President Putin in India early next year.

Lakshya has already been inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2000 and currently test and trials are underway for an advanced version of the Lakshya which could be used as a cruise missile.

The Lakshya project was conceived by the DRDO in 1976 and is a sub-sonic re-useable aerial target system remotely piloted from the ground.

India is co-producing with Russia the supersonic anti-ship missile, BrahMos. However, the test firing of the Babur cruise missile by Pakistan India is developing the Sagarika Cruise missile with the range being extended from the earlier planned level of 300 kilometres to 1000 kilometres. The Indian Navy also has the Klub cruise missile.

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