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By Bulbul Singh

12 Sep 07. Indo-Russia defence ties have hit again hit rough weather as New Delhi refuses to pay for upgrade of Russian IL-38 aircraft saying they are not up to qualitative requirements.

The impasse comes ahead of Indian defence minister A K Anthony’s scheduled visit to Russia next month when he will impress on Moscow not to raise price of already contracted defence contracts.

Moscow has charged that Indian defence ministry is not formally accepting the delivery of upgraded IL-38 maritime reconnaissance aircraft. The Indian defence ministry in turn is saying that the Indian Navy has rejected the acceptance of the upgraded IL-38 Russian aircraft as the Sea Targeting system, Sea Dragon, installed on the upgraded IL-38 aircraft not up to the qualitative requirements of the Indian Navy.

The Sea Dragon is a multipurpose system which resolves missions in the detection of submarines, the survey of the water surface, reconnaissance of ground targets, the conduct of search and rescue operations and ecological monitoring. It has a range of more than 300 kilometers in the water surface survey mode and up to 100 kilometers of air space, and is capable simultaneously to track thirty and more targets.

Moscow says India is not formally taking delivery of the aircraft and as such no payment is being made. The Indian Navy says there is defect in the Sea Dragon system and as such it cannot take delivery of the aircraft in good shape.

A Russian diplomat said the Sea Dragon developed by the Leninets company of St Petersburg, on the aircraft can track more than 30 targets at one time from a distance of up to 320 kilometers and meets the requirements contracted in the deal.

So far two upgraded aircraft have been delivered to India. The first Il-38 maritime anti-submarine warfare (ASW) were delivered to the Indian Navy in January 2006

India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation has supplied the aircraft’s new electronic intelligence system, electronic countermeasures station system, digital firing decoys and radio communication system. In 2001 Russia and India signed a contract worth $ 175m for the upgrade of five basic IL-38 patrol airplanes into the IL-38SD variant. However the Indian Navy lost of the IL-38 aircraft in aerial collision in October 2002.

Currently the impasse over Russia’s demand to increase the price of some of the contracted defence programs are under negotiation has not been finalised. However, sources in the Indian Navy feared that in the current scenario when Indo-Russian defence ties appear to be under strain the delivery of the IL-38 could even be forced on the force compromising on the quality of the equipment.

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