Possibility of major arms deals with Saudi Arabia and Iran has increased interest in the Russian air show- MAKS 2015.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have been in contact with Russian officials to purchase the Iskander-E tactical missiles and the S-300 air defence system respectively besides a host of other weapons including attack helicopters, aircraft and air-to-air missiles.
The MAKS 2015 show to be held this month-end will be keenly watched as Russia, itself facing American and European sanctions over Crimea, has accelerated arms production and begun a process of replacing Western components in its weapons platforms with indigenous ones.
Moscow has in recent months ratcheted up its arms sales pitches in Asia, the Middle East and South America as it expects to offset a steep fall in the value of the Rouble besides falling oil prices with an increase in hard currency earnings via arms exports.
Russian media reported yesterday that the Saudi and Jordanian kings would join President Vladimir Putin to visit the MAKS air show on its opening day next week. This suggests high-profile deals with both countries, particularly of equipment needed for the fight against the Islamic State.
Saudi Arabia may be interested in Russia's Ka-52 attack helicopter, which was built for service aboard the two French-built Mistral helicopter carriers, the deal for which is now cancelled. These choppers are suitable for attacking ground targets from a distance as they carry a variety of weaponry including a high velocity cannon, rockets and missiles.
Perhaps the most watched development at MAKS will be the activities of the Iranian delegation expected at the show. Iran is eager to buy Russia's S-300 air defense system, manufactured by Russia's largest land systems manufacturer, Almaz-Antey.
Iranian Fars news agency quoted Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan as saying “the text of the contract is ready and our friends will go to Russia next week to sign the contract”.
According to Dehghan, Iran is interested in up to four battalions of S-300 launchers, but did not specify how many of the advanced anti-aircraft missile launchers are in each.
In addition Dehghan said that the two sides were in negotiations for a purchase of Russian-made fighter jets. He did not specify which but it could be the Su-35, the latest jets in the Russian air force arsenal.
The Russian air force itself is expected to sign a deal to purchase of 48 Sukhoi Su-35 fighters for 100 billion ruble ($1.5 billion) during the show.