India to increase arms production, fearing Russian shortage

NEW DELHI (AP) — India said Thursday it will ramp up its production of military equipment, including helicopters, tank engines, missiles and airborne early warning systems, to make up for any potential shortfall in its main supplier, Russia.

India depends on Russia for almost 60% of its defense equipment, and the war in Ukraine has added to doubts about future supplies.

Defense Ministry officials say India, with the world’s second-largest army, fourth-largest air force and seventh-largest navy, cannot support itself through imports.

“Our goal is to develop India as a defense manufacturing hub,” Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said Thursday as he released a list of military equipment that will be produced locally rather than imported.

The ministry’s website says military orders worth 2.1 trillion rupees ($28 billion) are likely to be placed with domestic public and private defense manufacturers over the next five years.

Former Lt. Gen. DS Hooda said during a visit to India last year by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the two sides decided to move some manufacturing to India to meet its needs. Imports of helicopters, corvettes, tank engines, missiles and airborne early warning systems will eventually be stopped.

“The needs of the Russian military itself, with the kind of casualties they are taking, may mean that some of these spare parts that we need will likely be diverted,” said Hooda, a retired general from the Indian army.

To meet its short-term needs, India may consider purchasing from former Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact countries, ministry officials said.

Bulgaria, Poland, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine could help India with spare supplies for Russian Sukhois and MiG-29 fighter jets and with upgrading tanks and armored vehicles as they have similar Soviet-made platforms and spare parts, said a ministry official who spoke conditionally. anonymity since he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told his British counterpart Liz Truss during her visit to India last week that the focus was now on ‘made in India’ and that ‘the more we work together, the more opportunities to work together are many”.

The two sides discussed ways to strengthen Indo-British defense ties, ostensibly to reduce India’s strategic dependence on Russia.

India’s Ministry of Defense has so far identified a ‘positive indigenization list’ of more than 300 items with an import ban schedule to help local manufacturers meet the demands of the armed forces in the coming years .

The Indian Air Force has over 410 Soviet and Russian fighters with a mix of imported and license-built platforms including Su30s, MiG-21s and MiG 29s. All require spare parts and Russian components. India also has Russian submarines, tanks, helicopters, submarines, frigates and missiles.

Sanctions on Moscow could jeopardize India’s recent $375 million export order of BrahMos cruise missiles from the Philippines. Russian NPO Mashinostroyenia, which has formed a joint venture with the Indian government-run Defense Research and Development Organization to design, upgrade and manufacture BrahMos, is responsible for supplying the engines and seekers for the missiles.

Rahul Bedi, a defense analyst, said India was awaiting deliveries of Russian missile systems, frigates, an Akula-class nuclear-powered submarine and assault rifles.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is pushing for greater autonomy, but India lacks a solid industrial base for military equipment.

The process of moving spares manufacturing to India has begun, but Hooda said it was unclear whether it could quickly make up for any supply shortages.

“I would say if you really want to see meaningful progress, it will take at least five years,” he said.

The Indian Ministry of Defense has also signed nearly 60 offset contracts worth over $13 billion by 2027 for purchases of fighter jets and weapons from the United States, France, in Russia and Israel. The agreements require that 30-50% of the contract value be returned to India in the form of offsets or reinvestments.

An offset involves the obligation of a foreign supplier to purchase a certain quantity of goods from the importing country under the contract. The Indian government wants some of this money to benefit its defense industry or enable the country to gain in technology. This involves creating joint ventures with Indian companies to manufacture defense equipment.

The government announced in the 2022-2023 budget that 68% of all defense equipment purchases would go to local manufacturers.

Meanwhile, two-way defense trade with the United States grew from nearly zero in 2008 to $15 billion in 2019. Major Indian purchases from the United States included long-range maritime patrol aircraft, C-130 transport planes, missiles and drones.

In 2020, India announced that foreign companies could invest up to 74% in its defense manufacturing units, up from 49% previously, without any government approval. The objective is to attract foreign companies equipped with advanced technologies to set up factories in India in collaboration with local companies.

India fully opened up its defense sector, previously confined to state-owned enterprises, to the private sector in 2001. However, only 110 out of 330 private companies holding industrial licenses for such manufacturing have started production, according to the Ministry of Defense. Defense.

Starting from scratch, the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization started trying to develop advanced defense technologies in 1958. It worked on short and long range Agni and Prithvi missiles, light combat aircraft Tejas, tanks, multi-barrel rocket launchers, air defense systems and a wide range of radar and electronic warfare systems.

The Ministry of Defense has earmarked 10 billion rupees ($135 million) for startup procurement in 2020-21.

The government has established two defense industrial corridors, in northern Uttar Pradesh and southern Tamil Nadu state, with investments of Rs 200 billion crore ($2.7 billion) by 2024 by public enterprises and the private sector.

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