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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia hopes to sign a contract next month to sell India 40 Sukhoi fighters, the president of the Irkut warplane maker said on Friday, Interfax news agency reported.
"We hope to sign a contract in September to deliver another 40 Su-30MKI fighters to India," Irkut president Oleg Demchenko told Interfax.
The Su-30MKI is a long-haul Sukhoi fighter specially modified for the Indian air force. Indian officials had said they planned to sign a deal to buy 40 Sukhoi fighters by the end of March.
India's air force, one of the biggest in the world, also plans to buy 126 new combat aircraft to upgrade New Delhi's fleet which includes ageing Russian MiG-21s, Mig-23s and MiG-27s.
The 126-plane deal has attracted interest from European players like France's Dassault, which is promoting its Rafale fighter, and Sweden's Saab, eager to sell its JAS-39 Gripen.
Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin's F-16 are also competing for the contract.
Irkut's Demchenko said the firm had built an order book of 242 Su-30 fighters, adding that those orders would keep the enterprise working at full capacity at least until 2012.
"The portfolio of orders on the Su-30 is colossal -- 242 aircraft," he said, Interfax reported. "We will have to produce 30-35 aircraft a year."
He said the main purchasers of Sukhoi aircraft were India, Algeria and Malaysia.
Irkut, one of Russia's most modern aircraft producers, makes the Sukhoi-30 range of fighter jets and the Be-200 Multipurpose Amphibious Jet. European aerospace and defence giant EADS has a 10 percent stake in Irkut.
Irkut is now part of the state controlled United Aviation Corporation, which was set up by President Vladimir Putin last year to pool Russian aircraft producers under a plan to restore the country's former strong position in aviation.