The Indian/Russian multirole transport aircraft project appears to be back on track, with Ilyushin Aviation replacing NPK Irkut as the main Russian contractor and both sides likely to begin design work shortly.

Last year, Indian state-owned aerospace firm Hindustan Aeronautics suggested that it could seek new partners after disagreements with Russia over the programme's funding.

Those problems appear to have been ironed out, and the two sides will each contribute $300 million to create a joint venture. HAL has meanwhile ruled out the involvement of western partners in the programme, something it also considered last year.

HAL will design the front fuselage and wing, and also contribute to the development of the aircraft's avionics. Russian industry will work on the rear and centre fuselage.

Engines will be sourced from either Pratt & Whitney or Russian companies. The MTA will have a maximum payload of 18.5t, a range of 2,500km (1,350nm) and a speed of 470kt (870 km/h).

India plans to acquire 45 of the aircraft, while Russia is expected to commit to at least 100. If everything goes to plan, the first aircraft is expected to fly in 2013 and enter service in 2015.

The type will replace India's Antonov An-12 and An-24/26 transports, which have been in service for more than 30 years.

New Delhi has been actively seeking partnerships to develop its aircraft development and manufacturing capabilities. However, it has also been reaching out to manufacturers from the USA and western Europe in an attempt to diversify its source of weapons.

Russia, which has previously accounted for 70% of India's military requirements, is keen to maintain its position in the country through joint ventures.

Last year, India joined Russia's fifth-generation fighter programme, based on Sukhoi's T-50. The countries would provide equal funding and engineering shares, with the aircraft planned to make its first flight in late 2008 or early 2009.

The RSK MiG-35 is also competing against the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16 and Saab Gripen in the Indian air force's $12 billion tender for 126 medium multirole combat aircraft.