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Putin shows off Russia's military aviation

by Staff Writers
Zhukovsky, Russia (AFP) Aug 21, 2007
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday praised Russia's military aviation at an airshow outside Moscow as Indonesia prepared to sign a major contract for the purchase of Russian fighter jets.

"Russia has the task of retaining its leadership in fighting, military technology," Putin said at the opening of the Maks 2007 airshow in the town of Zhukovsky, a test flight centre near Moscow.

"Russia has new economic opportunities and will therefore develop these new technologies," he said, adding that Maks 2007 should serve as a platform for signing export contracts with foreign countries.

Putin, flanked by First Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is also chairman of a new state civil aviation construction corporation, then viewed displays performed by aircraft built by jetmakers Sukhoi, MiG and Tupolev.

The airshow came just a few days after Putin announced the immediate resumption of the Soviet-era practice of sending strategic bombers on long-range flights well beyond its borders.

The move was consistent with Putin's efforts to boost Moscow's status internationally but raised fears in Western capitals of a return to Cold War rivalry with Washington.

The strategic bombers were not on display at Maks 2007 but four new fighter jets -- the MiG-35, MiG-29K, Su-35 and Su-32 -- were due to be showcased at the event, which had 787 exhibitors from 39 countries.

The Maks airshow was a measure "of the commercial progress of Russian military-technical cooperation with foreign countries," Sergei Chemezov, head of state arms exporter Rosoboronoexport chief, said in a statement.

Rosoboronexport and Indonesian officials were also due to sign a contract on the sidelines of the airshow for the purchase by Jakarta of six Su-30 fighter jets, officials said.

The contract for the Su-30, a jet that was put into service in the mid-1990s, was worth up to 350 million dollars (260 million euros), a Rosoboronexport official told AFP.

In a statement, the company said that it had already signed contracts for military aircraft worth 2.5 billion dollars so far in 2007 and that it was supplying the air forces of China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Venezuela.

Russian arms exports have surged since the industrial slump that followed the Soviet collapse in 1991 and Russia's moves to regain Soviet-era markets in Asia, the Middle East and South America have raised hackles in Washington.

But William Hobbins, commander of US air forces in Europe, who also attended the airshow on Tuesday, praised Russia's military aircraft production and said air force cooperation between the two countries was strong.

"I will not discuss the political side but I will tell you that the military-to-military relationships are better than they've ever been," Hobbins said at a press conference.

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