Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bangalore: India will soon invite bids from combat aircraft makers for the 126 fighter jets the country's air force plans to buy, Defense Minister A.K. Anthony said Wednesday.
The deal is estimated to be worth between $6.5 billion and $10 billion.
"It is in the final stages," said Anthony, without giving a specific timeframe, speaking to reporters at an air show in the southern technology hub of Bangalore.
India also is considering buying nearly 200 army reconnaissance and observation helicopters, Anthony said.
Aviation companies from around the world have flocked to the air show, hoping for a piece of the billions of dollars in defense contracts the South Asian country plans to spend in modernizing its military.
The five-day event at the Yelahanka air base has drawn 500 companies, including 275 foreign companies, more than ever before, Defense Production Secretary K.P. Singh told reporters.
Forty-five foreign delegations and 28 air force chiefs are also attending the biennial show, which comes as India is emerging as one of the biggest buyers of military hardware in the global market.
Inaugurating the air show earlier in the day, Anthony said India's rapid economic expansion in recent years has added to its role in international affairs, which in turn demands that the country also boost its military capabilities.
"India has been called upon to play a more decisive and responsible role in world affairs, particularly in the Asian region. This has led us to rethink our priorities," he said. "We are in the process of acquiring fresh capabilities for all three wings of our armed forces to optimize their operational effectiveness."
The Indian government's decision to allow foreign and private investment has also encouraged many global companies to explore partnerships with local firms to set up manufacturing and research facilities.
07/02/07 Rajesh Mahapatra/Ap/CBS News

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