Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the state-owned defence giant, will partner with two Russian aerospace majors to jointly develop and produce the next generation multi-role transport aircraft (MTA) for the military and civil sectors.
"Discussions are at an advanced stage to form a joint venture (JV) with Irkut Corporation and Ilyushin Design Bureau to design and develop an advanced MTA for the armed forces of both countries and in the international market," a top HAL official said in Bangalore.
The JV is proposed to be set up with a combined investment of $600 million (Rs 27 billion) for developing the aircraft and will roll out the first prototype in the next five-six years for operation and certification.
HAL will have 50 per cent of equity in the JV, while the two Russian firms will chip in 25 per cent each for the remaining stake.
"As joint partners, we will finalise the nature of workload to be taken up and shared equally for the project. As per our estimates, both the countries will require about 200 MTAs for defence and civil use over the next decade," HAL chairman Ashok K Baweja said.
According to United Aircraft Corporation's (UAC) Alexey Fedorov, the MTA is aimed at replacing the ageing Russian-built AN-12, AN-32 and the US-built C-130, used by Indian Air Force (IAF) and Indian Army, besides the Russian service wings.
The Russian aviation conglomerate UAC is a parent company of Irkut, Illyushin and the Sukhoi Design Bureau, which delivered the multi-role combat fighter Sukhoi-30 MKI to the IAF and transferred the technology to HAL for licensed production.
"A protocol of intention was inked last year for the JV that will be set up after an inter-governmental agreement soon. We have received an initial purchase order for the defence ministry," Baweja hinted on the sidelines of Aero India 2007, the international air show that concluded on Sunday.
Going forward, the partners intend to bring out a civil version of the MTA by converting the interiors into a 100-seater passenger aircraft and hard-sell it in the subcontinent where the civil aviation market is flying high on a burgeoning economy.
"Our game plan is to first produce an MTA for military use in both the countries and expand the envelope to target the civil sector," Baweja pointed out.
HAL also plans to design and develop a fifth generation multi-role combat fighter with Sukhoi design bureau in the next decade.
"The ambitious project is estimated to cost about $5 billion. Though the US and Russian aerospace firms have already developed some fifth generation fighters, our assessment is that IAF and other air forces in the developing countries will require an indigenously developed fighter in its class in the coming decades," Baweja affirmed.
Interestingly, about 70 per cent of India's defence hardware comes from Russia, with technology, designs and spare parts.
A few joint development plans in aerospace were discussed during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Delhi and a high-profile delegation to Bangalore, led by Russian Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov.