Russia's Defence Minister arrived in India yesterday to finalise negotiations for the purchase of 40 Su-30 frontline combat fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force for about 70 billion rupees (HK$15.4 billion). During his three-day visit, General Igor Rodionov will also try to persuade India to buy additional military hardware including an aircraft carrier, frigates and 152 mm self-propelled guns. India reportedly paid five billion rupees on the fighter planes last year. 'The down payment for the fighters ensures that neither the delivery schedules nor the price will be affected,' said an air force official. The Air Force is keen to induct the Su-30 to counter the potential threat posed by the F-16 and Mirage 2000 aircraft of the neighbouring Pakistan Air Force. Arms industry sources said Russia remained India's main supplier of military hardware, with the Government abandoning all intentions of broadening its defence procurement sources. The majority of India's military equipment was supplied by the Soviet Union and the largest and most efficient local defence manufacturing concerns, like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and the Heavy Vehicles Factory at Avadi both in south India, build Soviet aircraft and tanks. More recently the two countries set up Indo-Russian Aviation, a joint venture company to service Soviet aircraft in operation around the world. This company will oversee the upgrading of about 100 MiG-21 aircraft for India. 'The principal reason for India briefly looking to the West for military hardware in the early 1990s was the acute problem of spares after the Soviet Union's break-up,' said a Defence Ministry official. But this problem, he said, had been sorted out. Besides, military hardware from Russia was considerably cheaper compared to Western equipment, hardier and, above all, familiar. German Defence Minister Volker Ruehe will also be in New Delhi this week to bid for a share of India's increasing defence procurement budget. The Navy recently bought four German submarines.