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Wednesday 9 December 2020

Russia-Ukraine rift a potential problem for Indian military

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 9th Dec 20


India, the largest operator of Soviet/Russian defence equipment outside the Russian Federation, has reason to worry after a Russian press release on Tuesday formally objected to the overhaul in Ukraine of military equipment built and sold by Russia.


Russian Helicopters, which supplied the Afghan Air Force with Mi-17V-5 helicopters, has taken umbrage to Kabul sending them for overhaul to Ukraine.


“Russian Helicopters Holding Company considers it necessary to warn that Ukrainian aircraft repair enterprises are carrying out illegitimate overhaul of Mi-17V-5 helicopters and thereby endangers the lives of the American and Afghan soldiers that are operating these helicopters”, stated a press release from the Russian embassy in New Delhi.


Disowning responsibility for the safety of two Afghan Mi-17V-5 helicopters that are being overhauled at Motor Sich corporation in Zaporozhye, and Aviakon corporation in Konotop, Russian Helicopters stated it “disclaims all responsibility for further safe operation of mentioned helicopters and has every reason to deny services related to maintenance of these helicopters.”


The rift between Russia and Ukraine, which burst out into armed combat when Moscow annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, has created a potential dilemma for India. 


When New Delhi bought its fleet of 105 Antonov-32 (AN-32) transport aircraft from the Soviet Union in the 1980s, they were manufactured in the Antonov plant in Ukraine, which was then an integral part of the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, Ukraine became an independent republic. 


That was not initially a problem for New Delhi, which relied on the Former Soviet Union (FSU) republics for a range of spare parts and services. However, after relations between Moscow and Kiev broke down, Russia has begun objecting to customers dealing with Ukraine. 


The potential for trouble with Moscow exists because the Indian Air Force (IAF) is currently collaborating with Ukraine to overhaul its fleet of AN-32s. So far, Moscow has not objected, but the tone of the Russian press release suggests trouble ahead.


The IAF had entered into a $400 million contract with Antonov in 2009 to upgrade its ageing fleet of 105 AN-32 transporters and to increase their service life by ten years. That upgrade programme was halted by the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, when Antonov had refurbished only 45 aircraft. 


This was because Russia refused to supply critical equipment needed for the AN-32 upgrade, including navigation and communications equipment, avionics and on-board oxygen generating equipment.


A defiant Ukraine, which has a sophisticated defence industry, undertook to develop domestic substitutes for all Russian sub-systems in the AN-32. After completing that, the upgrade of the remaining 60 aircraft resumed last year in the IAF’s base repair depot in Kanpur.


After Russian Helicopter’s press release today, there is the possibility that Moscow might also formally object to the AN-32 upgrade in Ukraine. While the aircraft were originally built in Ukraine, they were sold by Moscow to India.


However, Kiev is not without means of recourse. A range of Russian warships are powered by Ukrainian Zorya gas turbine engines, including the four Krivak-III class frigates that the Indian Navy has ordered from Russia. Ukraine, which had stopped supplying gas turbines to Moscow, has agreed to make an exception for India and supply Zorya turbines for the four frigates, provided they were routed through India.


Ukrainian gas turbines power a range of indigenous Indian frigates and destroyers and the Indian warship market continues to be a cash cow for Zorya.


The Ukrainian armoured vehicles industry is also pitching for opportunities to overhaul India’s vast inventory of tanks and infantry combat vehicles.

1 comment:

  1. I think C295 should replace both Avro & AN32, build about 100.
    Buy 40-50 Hercules. Should close the MRTA.


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