India's addiction to Russian weaponry stands exposed in the Russia-Ukraine war - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 9 May 2022

India's addiction to Russian weaponry stands exposed in the Russia-Ukraine war

INS Kolkata, the lead ship of Project 15B, which is powered by Ukrainian gas turbines built by Zorya-Mashproekt

By Ajai Shukla

Unsigned edit

Business Standard, 10th May 22

On April 13, Ukrainian ground forces reportedly fired two Neptune anti-ship missiles at the Russian missile cruiser, Moskva, igniting a fire that eventually sank the iconic flagship of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet. It is being argued that the aging ship’s radar systems were not working properly and that US intelligence provided the Ukrainian military with targeting data, which enabled it to strike the Moskva with lethal accuracy. The humiliation was compounded when, three days ago, a second Russian warship was reportedly hit and sunk at Snake Island, near Odessa. With the Russia-Ukraine war in its third month, Kyiv says 25,000 Russian soldiers have lost their lives fighting stubborn Ukrainian military resistance. Moscow, however, puts its military casualties at 1,300 and civilian casualties at about 3,000.


Shocking casualties have also been inflicted on Russian armoured columns, whose modern T-90 tanks were expected to roll over Ukraine’s less capable T-80UD tanks. The Ukrainian foreign ministry claims that Russia has lost 176 aircraft, 153 helicopters, 838 tanks, 2,162 armoured personnel carriers and 1,523 other vehicles. According to reports, 12 Russian generals have been killed on the front lines since the invasion began in late February. Western military analysts say this indicates low Russian morale, with the presence of Russian generals essential at the front lines to ensure that their troops are conducting the battle plan the way it was ordered.


All of this is bad news for India’s military, given its heavy dependence on Russian combat and transport aircraft, warships and submarines, air defence missiles, tanks and armoured personnel carriers. India’s frontline tank is the Russian T-90, which has performed woefully, taking heavy casualties from Ukrainian missiles launched from unmanned aerial vehicles. New Delhi would also have noted that the Pakistan Army operates 320 Ukrainian T-80UD tanks, which have done better than the T-90s. Several major Indian warships continue to be protected against enemy aircraft and missiles by Russian air defence systems, with the Indo-Israeli medium range surface-to-air missile (MR-SAM) being introduced into service far slower than what is needed. Another outstanding issue between Kyiv and Delhi is Ukraine’s provision of Zorya gas turbines for four Indian warships of Russian origin. After Russia annexed the Crimea in 2014, Kiyev refused to supply gas turbines for the four Krivak-III class frigates until New Delhi worked out a complex arrangement wherein the turbines would be supplied to India, handed over to Russia, and then fitted into the made-in-Russia warships.


However, the Indian Navy is far from satisfied with this convoluted arrangement and is looking for an assured and smooth supply of turbines. Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is struggling with the problem of overhauling and upgrading its AN-32 transport fleet, given that the Antonov plant that has designed and manufactured the aircraft is in Ukraine, while dozens of small manufacturers that produce the aircraft’s components and sub-systems are scattered across the former Soviet Union in a defence industry that Russia wants to deny Ukraine access to. In the final balance, the problem centres on India’s heavy dependence on Russian defence equipment and the flow of spare parts essential to keep it moving. Despite the Indian MoD’s rhetoric about “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (self-reliant India), we remain dependent not just on major defence platforms, but also on the enormous eco-system of components and sub-systems needed to keep the platforms going. 


  1. Yes Ajai ji and so does american threats to put sanctions.

  2. Regarding the "Atmanirbharta" I would say we have at least begun. Its the classic "Half filled vs half full" argument.

  3. # does this mean large boats will be sitting ducks; ditto massed armoured columns, advances

  4. Title should be...
    "India's addiction to sub-standard Russian weaponry..."

  5. Days of big is better over. Its now small, lethal hily advanced lethal missiles, robots, AI , etc. US weapons being very expensive, we shud go in for French weapons. In kargil war when Migs failed to deliver, Mirage 2000 has to be brought in. Russian soldiers and Russian weaponary totally exposed.

  6. Possibly Russia not using advance Ships in the conflict. Nevertheless Russian philosophy give importance to quantity over quality.


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