India is facing acute shortage of spares for its military equipment bought from Russia.
The defense ministry has called for a meeting with Indian private defense industry next week. The meeting, which will be chaired by Secretary Defence Production (DP), will also be attended by Chairman of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and senior officers from the three defence services, Indian express reported Monday.
Since the early 1960s, India is estimated to have acquired military equipment worth $45 billion from Moscow which forms more than 60 per cent of equipment on the inventory of the three services. But the current serviceability state of this equipment, particularly those with the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the navy, is less than 50 per cent, The news daily quoted unnamed sources as saying.
The problem is particularly acute in the case of Sukhoi Su-30 fighter aircraft which is made under license by HAL here. More than 200 Su-30 fighters are already in service with the IAF, and form the backbone of the country’s air power. The HAL is responsible for providing spares for these aircraft but is currently unable to meet the requirement, due to an unreliable and fledgling supply line from Russia. The state of spares with other Russian origin platforms such as the Mig-29 naval fighters, Kamov and Mi-17 helicopters is also not very encouraging. The IAF and the navy directly issue contracts for these spares but have complained to the defence ministry about the unreliable nature of Russian provisioning.
A couple of suggestions to overcome this problem were mooted during a similar meeting, chaired by Secretary (DP) in end-June but have not led to any concrete outcomes. One option explored during the June meeting was for the Indian companies to source the spare parts directly from Ukranian manufacturers. That proposal was shot down by HAL because the Ukrainian equipment is not certified by Russia. It means that the Russian guarantee on these platforms would become null and void, if they are fitted with Ukrainian spares.
Meanwhile, HAL attempted to overcome this problem by asking local MSME industry to start making these spares in India. This would, however, need a transfer of technology (ToT) from Russia which can only be done through the Russian government agency, Rosoboronexport corporation. Most Indian private industry officials are wary of working with Rosoboronexport, because of, what they say, is its “poor track-record and unprofessional attitude”.
“We have worked with Rosoboronexport which operates like a middleman. We paid the money to Rosoboronexport but the small Russian company never got the money from Rosoboronexport, and never sent us the parts. We are not alone, everyone has had complaints with Rosoboronexport which even the defence ministry is fully aware of,” Vice-President of a top Indian defence company told The Indian Express.
In the June meeting, Secretary (DP) had promised the industry that the issue of Rosoboronexport will be raised with Moscow at a ministerial and diplomatic level. That matter is bound to come up again in the meeting next week.
Indian private defence firms also assert that even if they were to somehow work through Rosoboronexport, it will be unprofitable for them to start a production line here in the absence of a firm order for a few years. Secretary (DP) had responded favourably to the idea and agreed to issuing a policy which gives firm orders to an Indian company for five years at benchmark price. These companies are expecting to hear from the ministry on the new policy next week.