SPECIAL/INDIA’S ARMS RACE
India’s defense modernization: The fine print
Aspartofmodernizingitsdefenseforceswith materiel from a burgeoning strategic and iplomatic ally, India has inked military
contracts worth Rs 371.81 billion ($8.26 billion)
since 2004 with the United States.
A Sukhoi T-50 at the opening of the MAKS International Aviation and Space Salon at Zhukovsky airport outside Moscow, August 17. This was the first public flight by the T-50, a joint project between Russia and India
Moscow, which comprise over 70 percent of
India’s materiel inventory. These include Soviet
and Russian combat and transport aircraft, submarines, surface warships, tanks, artillery systems, infantry combat vehicles, heavy lift and
attack helicopters, and a varied range of ordnance and missiles.
Under imminent transfer to India, by the
yearend, is the Project 971 (Akula II-class)
nuclear-powered submarine leased from Russia
for $650 million to $700 million and INS
Vikramaditya (formerly the Admiral Gorshkov)
the 44,750-ton Kiev-class aircraft carrier for
$3.2 billion, scheduled to be delivered by end-
2012, early 2013.
The 12,000-ton Nerpa (K-152) submarine was
part of a secret agreement concluded for two
nucluear-powered submarines in January 2004
alongside the Indian Navy’s ‘related’ deal to
acquire INS Vikramaditya. For now, however, the Indian
Navy was exercising its option to lease only one submarine
which, would make India the sixth country — after the five
nuclear weapon states of Britain, China, France, Russia and
the US — to operate such a vessel.
The Indian military is also awaiting delivery of the last of
the 16 MiG-29KuB naval fighters it acquired in 2004 to
form part of INS Vikramaditya’s air group, and the first of
the 80 Mi-17-V medium lift helicopters it ordered in
December 2008 for $1.345 billion. This followed the earlier procurement of 40 Mi17-IVs.
Antony will also review the agreement to jointly develop
and build in an equal financial, but partial technical partnership a Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft with super-maneuverability, long-range strike and high-endurance air
Eventually, 2020 onwards, India will spend over $35 billion to acquire between 250 and 300 of the 30-35 ton
FGFA based on the Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA
(Perspektivnyi Aviatsionnyi Kompleks Frontovoi Aviatsy or
Future Air System for Tactical Air Forces) and one which
India’s defense ministry has designated the Perspective
Multi-role Fighter. Once completed, this would be India’s
largest ever Russian materiel acquisition.
But fearing competition from Israel, the US and Europe
in arms sales, senior Russian analysts recently declared
that Moscow could offer India strategic military knowhow
in order to retain sway over its largest materiel procurer.
“Growing international competition for the Indian defense market
will push Russia to expand its cooperation with India into new sectors
where it has no rivals, such as strategic weapons and technologies,”
Konstantin Makienko of the Center
for Analysis of Strategies and
Technologies said in Moscow ahead
of the 10th session of the India-Russia intergovernmental commission on military-technical cooperation in Delhi last October.
Makienko suggested that the two countries could diversify their defense ties into nuclear submarine technologies
despite continuing international restrictions against India.
“India’s de-facto joining of the nuclear club makes such
restrictions rather pointless,” he declared, adding that
Russia was interested in strengthening Delhi’s defense
potential without any limitations.
He was referring to the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers
Group, responsible for regulating global nuclear trade,
approving a US-backed proposal in 2008 permitting India
to conduct civilian atomic commerce whilst retaining its
strategic weapons program.
SERGEI KARPUKHIN/REU TERS
cautioned New Delhi over acquiring US materiel under the
FMS program, warning that after-sales maintenance support for it could prove ‘problematic’.
Military sources said that in June 2010, Indian Army
Chief General V K Singh had informed Antony that his
force had been facing recurring trouble with the 12 Thales-Raytheon Systems AN/TPQ-37 (V) 3 Firefinder artillery
locating radar. Artillery sources said up to two-thirds of
these radar were ‘frequently’ out of commission, awaiting
either spare parts, maintenance or both, precluding their
Mounted on locally built vehicles and equipped with a
package supplied by Israel’s Tadiran Communications, the
Firefinder radar are deemed capable of detecting artillery
positions at a distance of between 17.3-19.8 miles and tactical missiles up to 31 miles away with an accuracy of 32.8
feet. But the radar, presently undergoing an upgrade, had
intermittently remained ‘off road’ since their induction was
completed in mid-2007.
Burgeoning equipment sales to Delhi are in consonance
with assessments by various US military, armament industry officials and diplomats that by 2015-17 about 20-25 percent of India’s military hardware would be of American origin.
“Other than obvious commercial interests, which are
important, the US is keen to invest militarily in India which
it believes with Washington’s help and hardware can
emerge as a counterweight to China’s growing military
mite and aspirations,” a senior
three-star Indian Army officer said,
declining to be named.
China’s burgeoning defense capabilities — particularly its navy’s — is
a common cause of apprehension to
Delhi and Washington. Numerous
US Department of Defense analyses
detail with concern China’s proliferating military muscle, an anxiety
India shares. This is centered round
the Chinese military developing
longer range missiles and platforms
for out-of-area operations to influence regional disputes,
expand its territorial waters and deny adversaries the use of
sea lanes and airspace and dominate outer space and
Antony, meanwhile, is headed later this month to Russia
to assess ongoing military programs under process by
India’s largest weapons supplier.
According to the Russian Centre for Analysis of
International Weapons Trade, in 2010-2013 India would
account for 54.4 percent of Russian weapons exports estimated at over $15 billion.
India annually conducts $1,500 million worth of defense
business with Russia, and since the early 1960s had
acquired military goods worth over $40 billion from