Indo-Russia defence ties: From buyer-seller to co-producer of future weapons

November 14th, 2007 - 10:28 am ICT by admin  

New Delhi, Nov 11 (ANI): Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Moscow will envisage upgrading the predominant buyer-seller relationship between India and Russia in the defence sector to a new level of joint partnership for co-developing state-of-the-art future weaponries.

After reports of a new chill in the bilateral ties, particularly after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov failed to meet his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee during latter’s visit to Moscow recently, Indian Defence Minister A K Antony’s October visit to Russia just after it, gave a new boost to the bilateral ties.

Both countries decided to co-develop and produce the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) during Antony’s visit, and it is expected that Manmohan Singh’s weekend visit would further strengthen military ties. It is expected that India would hammer out a deal to acquire nuclear-powered Akula-II submarines from Russia on a lease for 10 years next week.

The deal, which could be worth over Rs 2,000 crore, (508 million dollars) would help the Indian Navy to fill the vacuum till India’s indigenously developed nuclear submarines are inducted.

At present, the total cost of different acquisitions of military hardware and equipments from Russia is estimated to be around 390 billion rupees (10 billion dollars), which could rise after India accepted Russian demand of increasing escalation rate to five percent from 2.8 percent as earlier agreed between the two countries.

This is apart from the latest decision by the two countries to co-develop the FGFA by 2015, which would be equally financed by India and Russia, and it is estimated to cost approximately another 10 billion dollars.

The next phase of bilateral defence ties, which many term as a ‘time-tested’ one, would focus on joint development and manufacture of new defence equipments that would include Multi-Role Transport Aircraft, and a new version of Brahmos cruise missile.

With India’s rapid development of indigenous manufacturing industries and a new Defence Procurement Policy already giving emphasis on enhanced offsets, New Delhi wants to get rid of ‘one of the largest defence equipment buyer’ tag, and wants to indigenously as well as jointly develop technologies with other countries, particularly with Russia since the bilateral defence ties date over three decades.

New Delhi is also persuading Moscow to induct the jointly developed supersonic cruise missile Brahmos.

India has been a long time buyer of military hardware from Moscow. A return gesture from Russia would go a long way in strengthening defence cooperation between the two countries.

Presently, Russia is legally bound to induct only those weapon systems that have been indigenously developed by them, and as Brahmos is a joint venture of India and Russia so they have been unable to induct them.

Top officials of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have said that Russia has been willing to induct Brahmos missiles, which are considered technically superior than US’ cruise missiles.

Preliminary talks on developing a hypersonic version of the Brahmos cruise missile are also taking place, and efforts are on to make the transition from planning stage to implementation stage of developing such missiles.

The hypersonic missiles would approximately move five times faster than the present cruise missile, sources in the DRDO said.

The present supersonic Brahmos cruise missile, which can be launched from any platform, can attain the speed of Mach 2.8 (2.8 times the speed of sound) and is about three times faster than the subsonic US’ Tomahawk cruise missile.

Though the range of Brahmos at present is close to 300 kms, it is quite logical that hypersonic version would have longer range.

However, recent experience on acquisition of defence equipment from Russia has not been very smooth.

Delays, sometimes indefinite, have emerged out as a stumbling block in the growing defence ties.

The classic case being the acquisition of 44,570-tonne aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov.

The aircraft carrier was initially supposed to join Indian Navy by August 2008, but ‘unforeseen problems’ has cast a doubt that Russia would be able to stick to its deadline, since reports from Moscow suggest that lots of repairing work still remains to be done.

The recent enhancement in the escalation rate is expected to inflate the cost of the aircraft carrier, which was initially signed as 58 billion rupees (1.5 billion dollars) deal in January 2004.

A December 2000 contract for licence production of 140 SU-30 MKI aircraft also exists, but the long- standing discussion for increasing escalation rate had put a pause on it.

India is also set to acquire T-90S Main-Battle Tanks (MBTs) from Russia to fill the gap in its artillery due to the delay in the induction of indigenously developed MBT Arjun.

The recent announcement by India to acquire 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Fighter Aircraft at an approximate cost of Rs 42,000 crore (11 billion dollars) has enthused Russia, which is also in the race with its Mig-35 fighter jets. (ANI)

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