India Expected To Sign for More MiG-29s and Su-30MKIs in October

 - August 3, 2019, 3:04 AM
The Su-30MKI is the Indian Air Force’s most important fighter type. Another 18 are expected to be procured from Russia. (photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

New Delhi is expected to commit to a series of new major arms deals with Moscow at the next session of the Indo-Russian intergovernmental commission on military industrial cooperation, to be held in October. These would include a contract on 18 additional kits for the Sukhoi Su-30MKI heavyweight multirole fighter for assembly at HAL’s Nasik plant. This would bring the grand total of such aircraft procured since 1999 to 240. Additionally, the Indian Air Force would receive “over 20” used MiG-29 lightweight interceptors from the Russian Air and Space Force (VKS) for their subsequent conversion into MiG-29UPG multirole aircraft.

Apart from the fighters, New Delhi is seeking to procure about 1,000 air-to-air missiles. The local media has specifically reported on 300 R-73E and 400 RVV-AE (exportable R-77) weapons developed by the Vympel design bureau. Reports also emerged recently concerning the procurement of R-27s worth $217 million. The most recent R-27 purchase was in 2013, when around 400 were bought from Ukraine, where a production line is located. Since then, Russia’s Tactical Missile Corporation (local acronym TRV) has mastered production of the R-27 and improved R-73, sometimes referred to as the R-74, at its own facilities.

It is interesting to note that the decision to purchase Russian missiles comes after an earlier announcement that India would test MBDA missiles on the Su-30MKI. However, no request for permission to do this was filed with Moscow by India, and the licensed assembly agreement does not allow installation of third-party weapons on the Sukhoi.

New Delhi is also looking to set up local production of the Igla-S shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missile in a manner similar to the recently agreed deal for Kalashnikov assault rifles.

This burst of new purchases in Russia is at least partially due to the fact that Moscow and New Delhi have recently worked out a new set of payment methods and procedures that enables arms deals between them in the conditions of the newly introduced U.S. sanctions such as CAATSA. In July, Dmitri Shugayev, who heads FSVTS, Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, told journalists that the two engineered a scheme under which they can make transactions in a way that evades sanctions imposed by Washington. A mutually agreed set of payment methods and mechanisms was developed specifically for the S-400 contract, involving the national banking systems and special-purpose vehicles. Once it proved workable, the sides decided to extend its application to other major deals. FVSTS refused to reveal any further details.

Yet another major development in relations between the two nations has been the establishment of a joint after-sales support group under the umbrella of the Indo-Russian intergovernmental commission on military-industrial cooperation. Earlier this summer, the group held its first session in Sochi.

“We agreed to expedite entering the interstate agreement on joint production of spare parts and expendables on Indian soil,” FSVTS deputy head Vladimir Drozhzhov told AIN. “A draft of it is being reviewed by various governmental structures before validation. It will give a solid foundation for the legal framework to involve Russian and Indian firms in the process of technology transfer and localization in accordance with the ‘Make in India’ policy by the incumbent cabinet in New Delhi.” He further elaborated that Moscow initially offered six separate agreements—addressing equipment for army, navy, aircraft, helicopters, missiles and aircraft carriers—but at the request of India, they were made into a single universal document.

With the new agreements in place, Moscow hopes to grow its backlog of Indian orders, which currently stands at $14 billion. “We take this as a good point to start, and intend to make efforts to bring our military-technical cooperation to new heights,” said Drozhzhov.