NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India plans to spend about $100 billion over the next 10 years to upgrade its largely Soviet-era military equipment, as Asia’s third-largest economy looks to match its growing economic clout with military power.
Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, India, one of the world’s largest arms importers, has shifted towards buying from the West as Russian products were plagued by delivery delays, maintenance problems and a lack of spare parts.
But Russia remains one of its India’s main suppliers and on Monday, during a visit by President Vladimir Putin, agreed to sell India dozens of Russian military helicopters and kits for the assembly of Sukhoi jets.
The following are details of current Russian weapon platforms and possible future contracts with India:
The air force relies heavily on Soviet-era Mikoyan MiG fighters, sometimes dubbed “flying coffins” in India for their high crash rates, as well as Antonov and Ilyushin transport aircraft and OPK Oboronprom’s GKROSO.UL Mil helicopters.
The most formidable aircraft in India’s fleet is United Aircraft Corp’s (UNAC.MM) Sukhoi Su-30MKI multi-role fighter. More than 150 are in service and the total is due to rise to 272 by 2019. On Monday, Russia agreed to supply kits worth $1.6 billion to assemble the last 42 of these.
India is also developing a stealth fighter with Russia. It will start taking delivery of about 140 such planes after 2020, down from an earlier estimate of 200.
But this year the Mil Moscow Helicopter plant, a unit of Oboronprom, lost bids for about 15 heavy-lift helicopters and 22 combat helicopters to Boeing Co (BA.N), in deals totaling $2.4 billion.
Russia also lost out to Europe’s EADS EAD.PA in a $1 billion contract to supply aerial refuelling planes, while the Russian Mig-35 lost out to France’s Dassault (DAST.PA) as the preferred bidder in a $15 billion deal for 126 new combat jets.
However, advanced versions of the Mil Mi-17 medium-lift helicopters, called Mi-17 V-5, are being bought in deals totaling $1.3 billion for 71 units.
Russia has delayed delivery of the trouble-plagued aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, to be renamed INS Vikramaditya, by at least a year to the fourth quarter of 2013 in a blow to India’s efforts to build up its navy as China expands its maritime reach.
India is also building two aircraft carriers of its own with Russian technical assistance. The first is expected to be taken into service in 2017.
India has about 15 submarines in service, of which 11 are of Soviet/Russian origin, including an Akula Class nuclear-powered submarine. It also operates a large number of Soviet-era warships. It is currently procuring a new batch of Talwar Class stealth frigates, designed to be hard to detect, from Russia.
The navy plans to equip its carriers with about 45 Russian MiG-29 combat jets and Kamov anti-submarine helicopters. Its ageing fleet of Russian Tupolev maritime reconnaissance aircraft will be replaced by the Boeing P-8.
The navy also plans to introduce around 60 utility helicopters. Oboronprom’s Kamov unit is in the running for the contract against firms from Europe and the United States.
The army has more than 5,000 tanks and infantry fighting vehicles of Soviet and East European origin in its fleet, including the T-72 and T-55 tanks. It plans to introduce about 250 locally built main battle tanks and more than 2,000 Russian T-90 tanks by 2020.
One of Russia’s biggest exports to India’s army, police and paramilitary forces is the Kalashnikov assault rifle and its numerous modern-day versions.
The army chose EADS’s EAD.PA Eurocopter AS 500 for an order of 197 helicopters worth around $550 million in 2007. The deal was later scrapped due to allegations of unfair field trails and the bidding re-opened. The contenders are Eurocopter and Kamov, and a decision is expected soon.
SOURCES: Government and military data portals, Reuters and other media reports. (Reporting by Arup Roychoudhury; Editing by Kevin Liffey)