Spares for Indian Air Force’s top-line platforms like the twin-engine fighter Su-30Mki, Mig 29, Mi -17 helicopters could soon be made in India in collaboration with Russian manufacturers. Majority of India equipment is still of Russian origin. Unavailability of easily available spares has been a cause of major concern for India.
Internal estimates indicate that the serviceability of the fighters like Su-30Mki, MiG-29 K, Mi-17 helicopters, at times, have been as low as 50-60 per cent. In simple terms, it means that only half the fleet is operational.
In addition to fighters and helicopters, India and Russian defence industry will also explore ventures to produce spares for the Indian Army’s main-stay tank – the Russian made T-90 and the INS Vikramaditya – the Russian made aircraft carrier.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is leading a delegation of Indian industry delegation to Russia “to explore ways to jointly manufacture spares and components” in collaboration with the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) of Russia, a spokesperson of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said. Singh is visiting the Russian Federation from November 5-7, 2019 to co-chair 19th India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission on Military and Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC-M&MTC). The Defence Minister will his Russian counterpart, Defence Minister of Russian Federation General Sergei Shoigu to boost military-to-military cooperation and defence industrial cooperation, the MoD said. The Indian defence industry delegation includes public sector companies like BDL, BEML, and GSL, and senior industry leaders from nearly 35 private sector companies like L&T Defence, Bharat Forge Limited, Adani Defence, Texmaco Defence, Alpha Design Technologies, Ananth Technologies, MKU, SMPP, Zen Technologies and others.
The Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between India and Russia signed on September 4, 2019 by India and Russia will also be operationalized during this visit. The IGA deals extensively with joint manufacturing of spare parts, components, aggregates and other products for the maintenance of Russian-origin arms and defence equipment in India under the Make in India program through the transfer of technology and setting up of joint ventures.
Earlier, India had even considered the idea of signing long term maintenance contract agreements with Russian OEMs for critical systems to ensure theavailability of spares. And, the acquisition of 36 Rafale fighters comes with an in-built maintenance contract in the Government to Government signed between India and France for the purchase of the fighters which assures at least 75 per cent of the entire fleet of Rafale fighters will be available at all times.
Russia, one of India’s closest strategic allies, too, has tweaked its laws to aid manufacturing spares in India. It has graded its technology as obsolete, current and cutting edge. Old platforms, for instance, some of the technology used in fighters like the An-32 medium-lift transporters, MiG -29, M-17 etc, have been classified as obsolete. Russia is agreeable to share these technologies with Indian private industry almost free of cost.
IDDs view: Manufacturing spares will be a major jump for the nascent Indian defence industry and for the Indian armed forces. While the developing Indian defence manufacturing industry will get exposure in making defence equipment – triggering a virtuous cycle in defence equipment manufacturing and booking orders from the Indian armed forces, the military will get an abundant and continuous flow of spares which decide warfighting capabilities