The Russians presence at Farnborough, orchestrated by state defence export company Rosoboronexport. is designed to be sleek and efficient. Anatoly Aksenov, general adviser to the director general and head of the Rosoboronexport delegation talks to Vladimir Karnozov

Q: How is the Russian presence at Farnborough 2004 organised?

A: Although the number of participating companies remains similar to Farnborough 2002 - about 50 companies - we have 40% more floor space this year. Importantly, all the stands are in one hall so visitors can get information on a final product, say an aircraft, and learn more about its systems and components on adjacent stands.

Rosoboronexport and Sukhoi chalets are nearby so it is convenient for trade visitors who see the displays and then want to proceed with negotiations in a comfortable and friendly environment. Under the Rosoboronexport banner, 26 enterprises are presenting their products, while Sukhoi, Irkut, Aviaexport, Mil and Rostvertol have their own stands but in a similar style. The focus is on avionics, weapon sighting and control systems.

Q: What has Russia achieved in the weapons export market since Farnborough 2002?

A: Russian military exports have been steadily growing. Last year volume grew by 20%, to about $5.4 billion. That's a record for the Russian Federation since it became an independent state after breakup of the Soviet Union. Rosoboronexport's share of Russian military exports exceeds 90%. Aviation and space products and services have remained the largest component, at about 70%.

Helicopters are increasingly popular. World-wide interest in them has been stimulated by recent upgraded versions of the well-tried, easy-to-maintain and reliable Mil Mi-17 and Mi-35 (Mi-171Sh, Mi-17-1V, Mi-35M). The brand-new Kamov Ka-31 radar picket helicopter is an innovative design far exceeding would-be competitors in capabilities and performance. Another example of a new competitive product is the Ka-32A11BC multi-purpose helicopter, a civilian version of the basic design with Russian and western airworthiness certificates.

Rosoboronexport is holding a presentation on Wednesday where show visitors can learn about the outstanding performance of the Ka-31 on radar monitoring, land, sea and air surveillance, and use of the acquired data for military and civilian interests.

Market demand for Russian fighters has been steady. New contracts were signed last year with Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and India. These confirm market interest in the Sukhoi and MiG "4+ generation" multirole fighters, the Su-30MK and MiG-29K/SMT. Our specialists at the Russian national display can brief visitors and answer questions on design features, technical and operational performance of these aircraft.

We see growing interest in our products and services in Latin America. Colombia has become the largest Mi-17 operator, having acquired 20 units since 1999. Chile, Venezuela and other countries of the region are assessing Russian helicopters. Rosoboronexport continues to compete in the Brazilian tender for multirole fighters.

Russian aircraft remain popular in Africa, where they have proved well-suited to the harsh climatic and operational environment, demonstrating high reliability in Angola, Congo, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. Rosoboronexport is working with Egypt to support its Mi-8/17s and MiG-21s, and Ethiopia, which uses Mi-24s, Su-25s and Su-27s, as well as Uganda (equipment for peace-keeping forces) and other countries.

Q: Will new contracts be signed at Farnborough?

A: An airshow is not the place where deals get done. Any worthwhile contract on military equipment needs a long process of negotiations and approval. I do not approve of pushing the signing ceremony into show time. Still, if it is possible to arrange a contract signing at a show, it may be worth doing so.

Q: You mentioned contracts with Indonesia and Malaysia. Reportedly, palm oil and natural resin account for a considerable share in the payments (up to 80% and 40% respectively) for Russian weapons. What is your view on media claims that the Russians go for barter deals because their products do not sell for cash?

A: In my view, the main factor for our victories in Southeast Asia has been the price/quality ratio. The truth is that it is difficult for some countries to pay in hard currency. Russia, as well as other exporters, including the US and UK, concludes barter terms if these are acceptable for both seller and buyer. In every case the share of barter in the total payment is a subject for discussions. We go for it when it is beneficial for us, when our partner does not have enough hard currency but possesses goods that sell in the international market. In the case of our South Asian partners, Russia accepts their traditional export goods as a means of payment.

Q: Have you had any luck with European firms? Are there any prospects for upgrades of Russian-made helicopters in eastern Europe?

A: Joint ventures between the Russian industry and those of France, UK and other European nations are gathering speed. The most promising prospects are modernisation of ageing aircraft operated in central and eastern Europe, and creation of joint products for third countries.

The leaderships of several countries in the region have concluded that it is in their own interests to invite Russian developers and manufacturers to take part in the modernisation of Russian- and Soviet-made weapons that still have sufficient modernisation potential. An active negotiation process between Russian and NATO experts and specialists took place in the second half of 2003 and the first quarter of this year. We talk to all Visegrad countries on upgrades of Mil helicopters.

We are ready to cooperate with individual countries or groups of countries. But there is a precondition: Russian design houses and manufacturers must be project participants. The final configuration of upgraded helicopters would be decided by their owners together with the Russian side - after all, we will have to carry responsibility for quality of work and support throughout the operational lifetime of these aircraft.

Source: Flight Daily News