Date: 8/3/2004


> UPA's first defence deal with Italian firm

> - By Seema Mustafa (MUSALMANI, PAKISTANI!!!!) > > > New Delhi, Aug. 2: The first major defence contract under the United Progressive Alliance government has been secured by an Italian firm, Fincantieri, which has signed two agreements for assistance in the design and construction of an aircraft-carrier for the Indian Navy. The prestigious multi-million-dollar project for the development of the Navy's new Air Defence Ship will cover a period of two years, with Italian assistance available until the delivery of the carrier within eight to 10 years. >

> Fincantieri has been in line for a share in the Indian defence market. The two deals, totalling nearly $40 million, had been initiated by the previous NDA government. They were signed with the Indian shipyard of Kochi through its Naval Vessel Business Unit and signal the Italian company's involvement in the Indian Navy's most prestigious 38,000-tonne venture. A Spanish and a French defence firm were in the running for the contract. >

> The assistance envisages close cooperation between the Indian Navy and Fincantieri, which will provide facilities for working together in Italy. The first news of this project came from the Italian company and not the Indian government, with the contracts being signed late last month. >

> Under the agreement, Fincantieri will make an assessment of the ship's design, it will be responsible for its propulsion system and integration, it will assist the Kochi shipyard during the installation of the engines as well as during the integration and sea trials, it will supply the engineering and detailed design of the ancillary propulsion systems and the ship's main plants. It will also assist the Kochi Shipyard while the ADS is under construction as well as during the tests and trials. It will thus now be closely associated with the construction of the ADS, with the "assistance" encompassing not just the defined two years but the decade estimated for its construction. >

> The Italians have been keen to enter the Indian defence market and have been showing considerable interest. Several Italian defence companies have been visible at defence exhibitions in India with Fincantieri, Finmeccanica, Galileo Avionica, Laenia Aeronautica and others very visible in India this year. Italian defence minister Antonio Martino had invited former defence minister George Fernandes for a visit to Italy, where he had visited defence sites at Milan, Livorno Riva Trigosa and La Spezia. The Italians were keen on securing the AJT deal and lobbied hard with Mr Fernandes for this.

The contract was eventually secured by the British, although this has not stopped Italian firm Aeromacchi from sending a letter to defence minister Pranab Mukherjee reminding him of their interest and capabilities in the AJT field.

> > State-supported Fintantieri has been more successful under the Congress-led coalition government, with the Indian contract clearly being added to the company's list of successes. The Indian ADS will have four General Electric LM 2500 gas turbines which are supposedly similar to those in Italy's Cavour aircraft-carrier, which was launched by Fintcantieri on July 20 this year. This ship has a displacement of 27,100 tonnes. The Italian company is also building two Class-U212A submarines within the framework of an Italian-German programme and two "Orizzonte" class frigates as part of a joint Italian-French project. >