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RSK pushes French for MiG-AT credit

VLADIMIR KARNOZOV / MOSCOW

RSK MiG is pushing the French government to unfreeze a $53million credit line set up to support development of the MiG-AT advanced trainer with French engines and avionics. If successful the money will be used to complete Russian certification. If state acceptance trials are successful, the Russian air force is planning to lease 12 MiG-ATs from the manufacturer, the first such deal by the air force.

Late last year the air force signed a deal with RSK to conduct trials of the MiG-AT equipped with Snecma Larzac engines and Thales avionics, rather than the air force's preferred Russian-developed systems.

RSK says $20 million is required to complete the trainer's certification and that it hopes the French government will decide on the credit line this year. Thales Avionics and Snecma have 15% and 25% shares respectively in the project.

The Russian manufacturer sees potential export opportunities in Algeria (66 aircraft), Egypt (24), Greece (50), India (108), Indonesia (12), North Korea (21), Thailand (12) and United Arab Emirates (40). In India, where RSK is still trying to overturn the selection of the BAE Systems Hawk, the MiG-AT could be licence manufactured by a Hindustan/RSK joint venture. The Hawk deal remains unsigned as the sides cannot agree on price.

Having dramatically increased its sales in 2001, following several fallow years, RSK plans to build 15 combat aircraft over the next 12 months with general director Nikolai Nikitin naming Brazil, Philippines, Sudan, UAE, Uganda and Venezuela as among "the nations willing to have MiGs".

Recent sales have been of aircraft assembled from components made several years ago while the company continues trials of the latest MiG-29M1/M2 standard (also known as the K/MRCA), flown for the first time last September. The fighter uses a fly-by-wire system developed by MNPK Avionika. from its system for the MiG-AT.

MiG-29M1/M2s will be manufactured at the Lukhovitsy plant, which has a 30% share of the MiG-29S/SM series, rather than the Znamya Tryda factory in Moscow that is the traditional MiG fighter manufacturer.

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