Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and the Indian defence ministry are negotiating the sale of up to nine Astra business jets to be configured for maritime-reconnaissance and target-towing roles.

The talks come on the back of the visit of a high-level Israeli defence/aerospace delegation to India at the end of December in the company of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister.

The acquisition of additional Harpy anti-radiation drones, and the Elta El-2022 maritime-surveillance radar was also on the agenda, as was India's Mikoyan MiG-21 Fishbed upgrade programme.

The Elta El-2022, if procured, could be retrofitted to the Indian navy's Tupolev Tu142MKE Bear anti-submarine-warfare aircraft.

Although the Indian defence ministry and Russia's VPK MAPO have ostensibly reached agreement on an upgrade programme for more than 100 of the air force's late-model MiG-21s, the project has apparently yet to get fully under way. The Israelis are already expected to supply equipment for the upgrade, but would like to take a larger stake in the programme. While IAI and Elbit are interested in providing Western-standard avionics and integration capabilities for a MAPO-led project, both companies would also be keen to take over priming the contract were the MAPO deal to fall apart.

Israeli companies are also trying to interest the Indian air force in upgrades for its existing MiG-27s and MiG-29s. India's priorities may lie elsewhere, however. New Delhi has signed a deal to acquire Sukhoi Su-30MKIs, and it needs to buy an advanced jet trainer.

Source: Flight International