MOSCOW, February 22 (RIA Novosti)
The Russian Defense Ministry is planning to buy at least 45 light multipurpose helicopters from a foreign manufacturer, Vedomosti daily said on Wednesday.
The paper cited a defense industry source as saying that a contract worth over 6 billion rubles ($201 mln) for the purchase of fifteen AS350 and thirty AS355 Ecureil helicopters made by Eurocopter is in the works.
The Defense Ministry may order a total of 100 helicopters of this type mainly for training purposes.
A joint venture with Eurocopter could be set up for the assembly of AS350/355 in Russia, the source said.
The purchase of light helicopters abroad shows the urgent need for light helicopters by the Russian military, as domestic Ansats and Ka-226s are just entering the market while the Mi-34 is still under testing.
The Eurocopter AS350 is a single-engined light helicopter while the AS355 is a twin-engine variant. Both versions have been produced since the mid-1970s and sales remain strong.
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The current contract portfolio of Russian arms exporters is worth about $46 billion. Annual exports total $15 billion, and this will ensure uninterrupted deliveries for the next three years, even in the worst-case scenario. The list of the main buyers of Russian weapons is unlikely to change drastically.