Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Russia reneging on transferring Brahmos technology

After Russia back-pedalled on transferring technology for the production here of the T-90 main battle tank (MBT), a hiatus seems to have emerged over transferring "total" technology for the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile that Russia is jointly developing with India.

"We have not got full technology for the transfer of the (missile's) engines," C.G. Krishnadas Nair, a former chairman of state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), said at a seminar here that Defence Minister A.K. Antony inaugurated.

"We must have access to total technology. This denial is a serious matter," Nair, who is the founder-chairman of Society of Defence Technologists (SODET), maintained.

"No one should hold the other to ransom," he contended, clearly implying that Russia was holding back the technology for the missile's engine.

SODET brings together technologists of defence public sector undertakings, ordnance factory boards and military inspection establishments.

Nair was delivering the keynote address at the SODET-sponsored two-day national seminar on Defence R&D and Technology Management.

The defence minister refused to be drawn into the issue.

"What can I say? I have only just heard this," Antony told IANS on the sidelines of the seminar.

However, A. Sivathanu Pillai, CEO of BrahMos Aerospace that manufactures the missile, disagreed with Nair's contention.

"This is a joint venture. So, there's no question of transfer of technology. Russia manufactures the engines, we manufacture the guidance system and integrate the two," Pillai said.

"Transfer of technology occurs if the technology is purchased," he added.

India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia's NPO Mashinostroyenia have jointly developed the BrahMos, which is named after the Bramaputra and the Moskova, the two major rivers of India and Russia respectively.

Work on the project began in 1998 and the missile was first test fired on Dec 22, 2004. BrahMos is a two-stage missile with a solid propellant booster and a liquid propellant ram jet system that gives it a 300-km range.

The Indian Army is currently preparing to operationalise at least one regiment of the BrahMos missile mounted on a mobile launcher. The triple-barrelled launcher is capable of firing the missile singly or in salvos of two or three.

The Indian Navy has also accepted the BrahMos missile system with an advanced fire control system for its warships. Work is also progressing on an Indian Air Force version that will be delivered from the Sukhoi SU-30MKI platform.

As for the T-90, Indian Army chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor has admitted that Russia's delays in the technology transfer had pushed back its production here.

"Transfer of technology is a complex process due to different perceptions on either side on what exactly this involves. There have been delays but in the long run, the transfer will take place and indigenous production of the tank will commence," he said earlier this.

India had purchased 310 of the tanks in 2001 and was to produce under licence another 1,000 T-90s. However, delays in the technology transfer prompted India to sign a contract with Russia in 2006 for 347 tanks to ensure adequate force levels.

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