Russia remains India’s main arms supplier

This view of the importance of the relationship was stated by the Indian Ambassador to Moscow, His Excellency Bala Venkatesh Varma. At the upcoming Russian-Indian summit, a plan of military-technical cooperation for the next decade – 2021-2031 is to be announced and new agreements in the field of military-technical cooperation will be signed. The Ambassador confirmed that Russia “has again become India’s main partner in the defence industry.”

Credit: Yury Laskin

The Ambassador claimed that in 2018 when he entered his post, the total amount of bilateral defence contracts was around US $2-3 billion. The current volume of concluded deals achieved the sum of $9-10 billion, stressed Mr. Varma.

The most recent contract came out in February 2021, when New Delhi decided to upgrade 59 MiG-29 combat aircraft fleet with the additional purchase of 21 units. The Government decided to allocate 74.1 billion rupees (about US $1 billion) on that deal. To avoid US sanctions both nations agreed to deal in their national currencies.

Moscow-New Delhi defence cooperation has been based on long-term contracts in a view of  the “Make in India” policy, which is all about technology transfer and local production. Currently, over 200 joint programs between India and Russia are underway.

One of the most important is the BrahMos Aerospace joint venture between NPOMash of Russia and DRDO of India. According to Praveen Pathak, BrahMos Marketing director, the company has been working on a new generation missile called BRAHMOS-NG. Mr Pathak expects to enter the market with this product in the next 3-4 years. It will further increase the combat capabilities of the IAF Su-30MKI, MiG-29 and locally developed Tejas light fighter fleets.


DSCN4132Credit: Yury LaskinAccording to Mr. Pathak, the new missile weight will be reduced to about 1,500kg, which is almost half the weight of the current version. It is intended to have a flight speed of Mach 3 – 5. The missile can also potentially equip the export version of the Russian fifth generation Su-57.

The sales agreement for 5 regiments of the S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile system (SAM) is another significant example of Russian-Indian defence cooperation. The deal was signed at the end of October 2018 to be fulfilled by 2025 because of the long lead time for orders. According to Yury Ushakov, aide to the Russian President, the total sum of the contract exceeded 330 billion rubles (US$ 5 billion at the time of signature).

Russian industry started to work on contract implementation in 2020. During the Army-2021 international forum this August, the Head of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSVTS) Dmitry Shugaev announced: “work on the contract is proceeding according to the planned schedule”. According to Rosoboronexport, the national arms exporter, the first regiment delivery is expected to take place at the end of 2021.

The multipurpose frigates of the 11356 Project have been another long-term project within the Russian-Indian cooperation framework. The main weapon of the frigate is 8 Club-N (Caliber-NK) supersonic cruise missiles. They are also equipped with Shtil-1(“Calm”), Kashtan (“Chestnut”) and Igla (“Needle”) air defence systems, A-190E 100-mm artillery mount and strong anti-submarine weaponry including DTA-53 torpedoes and RBU-6000 anti-submarine rockets.

On October 28, 2021, the seventh of these frigates for the Indian Navy was launched at Yantar Baltic Shipyard in Kaliningrad. The ship was named Tushil. The construction program is to continue with two more vessels to be built at the Goa Shipyard Limited in India. India will have a total of nine 11356 ships, while Russia also has three vessels of this class: Admiral Grigorovich, Admiral Essen and Admiral Makarov.

One of the latest samples of bilateral cooperation is the Russian-Indian joint venture for Kamov Ka-226 light helicopter production. The agreement unites the Rostec Corporation- the Russian Helicopters holding company – and HAL of India to manufacture of 200 rotorcraft for the Indian Army Aviation and Air Force.

Initial production has already started at the Ulan-Ude Aviation Plant near Lake Baykal in Siberia. The plant will be the main partner of HAL to produce the assembly kits for the Indian production line. The Ka-226 enjoys a versatile design to be used in transport, passenger, SAR and medical evacuation variants. The machine has been digitally designed with the use of composites, up-to-date engines and avionics, as well as being optimised for high altitude operations. This year the machine was on display at MAKS and ARMY exhibitions near Moscow, as well as at the recent Dubai air show.

Russian-Indian cooperation also works well in the field of small arms. In March 2019, the production line for Russian AK-203 assault rifles was opened in the Indian city of Corva with the intention to produce over 700,000 units locally


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