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Tuesday, 10 September, 2002, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
Czechs battle for Indian jet contract
Aero L159B
India could be the first customer for the L-159B
The Czech Republic's largest arms maker has made a last minute bid to trump a deal by Britain's BAe Systems to supply more than 60 jet trainers to India.

The president of state-owed Aero Vodochody, the Czech minister of industry and trade, and senior executives from Boeing and Honeywell visited India a week ago to promote the L-159B trainer to senior members of the government and air force.


We believe India to be a potential market for this aircraft

Antonin Jakubse
President, Aero Vodochody
"Aero Vodochody was assured that no decision had been made yet on the purchase of subsonic aircraft for the Indian army and that Aero Vodochody's proposal will be given appropriate attention and an equal chance in the tender," the company said in a statement.

"The L-159 project had the full support of the Czech government, US government, as well as the Boeing and Honeywell companies," it said.

BAe has been trying to seal a 920m ($1.4bn) deal to sell 66 of its ageing Hawk trainers to India but it has been held up by corruption scandals, arms embargoes and Indian budget shortfalls.

Last Friday, Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes said India was close to signing the deal with BAe after reaching agreement on price.

Aero L-159B, which has a list price of $8.5m, is a two-seater trainer jet which can also double as a light combat fighter.

Czech mate?

"We believe India to be a potential market for this aircraft," Aero's president Antonin Jakubse said in July.

Aero expects that the first L-159Bs will be ready for export in 2004 after a successful first test flight on 1 June.

The Czech armed forces have not yet ordered any of the latest version of the aircraft, but have been flying earlier models for many years.

The world's largest aircraft maker Boeing, which owns 35% of Aero, supplies state-of-the-art avionics and Honeywell supplies the engines for the L-159B.

The two companies have offered a "wide-ranging transfer of technologies and production to Indian aircraft and engine producer HAL" as a sweetener for the Indian government.

.

See also:

31 Jul 02 | South Asia
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