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India, Israel copter pact

New Delhi, Jan. 20: India and Israel have decided to market the civilian version of the Advanced Light Helicopter, a 14-seater aircraft manufactured by the defence public sector company, Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL).

But HAL’s co-marketing arrangement with Israeli Aircraft Industries could mean that a prospective buyer of the helicopter — Iran — might refuse to carry on with negotiations for its procurement.

The helicopter has Israeli avionics and Iranian officials are understood to have sounded out Indian counterparts on the possibility of HAL retrofitting the helicopter without the Israeli equipment. Iran is uncomfortable with buying equipment that is dependent on Israeli technology for diplomatic reasons.

Defence ministry sources in New Delhi said that in a memorandum of understanding signed between HAL and IAI recently, the two companies had agreed to market the ALH at the fourth International Aerospace Exposition beginning in Bangalore from February 5.

The Aerospace Exposition, being advertised by the defence ministry as a major event, is itself turning out to be a showcase of the competition for the Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) that the government has been in the business of procuring for more than a decade and a half.

The main vendors for the AJT will be present in Bangalore along with their product. There is the British Aerospace with its Hawk ZJ 100, of course, which has been the frontrunner to win the contract to supply 66 aircraft to the IAF. But, in a clear sign that the government is still open to other offers, there will also be Aero Vodochody of the Czech Republic that will have its L-159 on static display as will Italy’s Alenia Aeronautica SPA with its ATR 42 MP.

A list of the participants released here, names major aviation companies. The IAF and Indian defence establishments will also exhibit their fighter aircraft and aircraft being developed.

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