India is extremely interested in procuring Russia's state-of-the-art Smerch long-range multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) to enhance own rocket artillery's capabilities.
The Russian military agencies' informed sources said that India's Defense Ministry was negotiating the purchase of two Smerch battalions with spare parts sets and tutorial systems.
The agency's source reminded that in one of his first speeches after assuming the post, India's Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee had said that purchasing Russian Smerch systems would be one of the priority transactions. Viktor Komardin, deputy director of the Rosoboronexport, Russia's state promoter of military equipment abroad, said that "the contract could be signed at any time" at the New-Delhi-hosted DEFEXPO India-2004 exhibition earlier, in February this year.
However, the agency's source noted that currently the negotiations were suspended because the Indian side "had found more impelling needs". The talks are most likely to resume in about two months and mainly touch upon the financial issues.
The Russian Smerch systems are supposed to complement similar MLRS Pinaka, produced by India. Their maximum design range is 38 kilometers, recent tests showed that upgraded pieces fired as far as 42 kilometers. Russia's upgraded Smerch 9K58 systems, which the Indian side plans to procure, can hit targets at the distance of 90 kilometers.
MLRS Smerch, produced by Tula-based Splav state scientific and production enterprise, is intended to deliver long-range fire against any complex targets, including exposed and sheltered personnel, unarmored, light-armored, armored equipment of motorized infantry and tank companies, artillery units, battlefield missiles, air defense systems and landed helicopters as well as to destroy command posts, communications centers and military production facilities.
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