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BENGALURU, India (Reuters) - India and Russia are nearing a joint venture to make light helicopters in India, reviving a plan announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2015.
Delhi needs to replace hundreds of ageing utility helicopters deployed along its Himalayan border with China as well as in the disputed Kashmir region.
This means an initial order of 200 Kamov-226 helicopters, of which 140 will be built in India as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's drive to build a domestic defence industrial base and cut imports, is expected to be increased.
And final documents relating to the $1 billion Kamov deal involving Russian Helicopters, Rosoboronexport and India's state-run Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) has been submitted to Putin, HAL's chief T. Suvarna Raju, told reporters on Wednesday.
While India has sealed deals with the United States for 22 Apache attack and 15 heavy lift Chinook helicopters at total cost of about $2.5 billion, plans to buy Russian helicopters and fifth generation fighter aircraft have been dogged by problems.
"There are issues between parties, but these are being tackled," Sergey Goreslavsky, deputy director general of Rosoboronexport, said at India's biggest air show in the southern city of Bengaluru.
A team will assess the Indian manufacturing facilities over the next few months. "We are keeping our fingers crossed about launching production this year," an executive at Russian Helicopters said.
The executive, who did not want to be named, said the joint venture will be modelled along the lines of Brahmos, the India-Russia entity producing supersonic missiles, which which military analysts say are among the deadliest in their class.
Russia was long the main supplier of military equipment to India, but Delhi has turned to France, Israel and increasingly the United States for supply of hardware in recent years.
U.S. aerospace and defence firms Lockheed Martin and Boeing have both offered to set up production lines in India to make combat planes.
Editing by Alexander Smith