Jan 6, 2022
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Like plywood over New Delhi: France crowds Russia in the Indian sky

In the photo: a model of a new light tactical single-engine fighter (LTS) in the pavilion of Sukhoi Checkmate (SU-75) during a presentation at the opening of the International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS-2021.

In the photo: a model of a new light tactical single-engine fighter (LTS) in the pavilion of Sukhoi Checkmate (SU-75) during a presentation at the opening of the MAKS-2021 International Aviation and Space Salon. (Photo: Roman Azanov / TASS)

Not entirely happy news in the new year for Rosoboronexport – India has decided to abandon the purchase of Russian fifth-generation Su-57 and Su-75 fighters. New Delhi also intends to abandon the contract for the purchase of almost two thousand Russian T-72 and T-90 tanks. In both cases, preference can be given to French military equipment – Rafale-M fighters and Leclere XLR tanks. Is Russia losing a promising Indian arms market?

In fact, not everything is as sad as it might seem at first glance, although, as you know, there is no smoke without fire. The Chinese newspaper Sohu, which identified these “pain points” of Russian arms exports to India, exaggerates somewhat. With fighters, everything is more or less clear – we are talking about carrier-based fighters for the new Indian aircraft carrier Vikrant, which will begin operation in August 2022. And since India has this type of aircraft represented by the Russian MiG-29K and MiG29KUB (now they are in service with the Vikramaditya aircraft carrier – the former aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov), which are already outdated models, they need urgent replacement.

Russia is currently ready to fill this gap in the carrier-based aircraft of the Indian Navy only in words. For the simple reason that a carrier-based version of the Russian fifth generation Su-57 fighter does not yet exist, and the Su-75 light fighter did not even take to the sky. Offering them to India, which already needs aircraft for aircraft carriers, is like selling air. And since it was decided in New Delhi to replace the MiG-29K / KUB (their total number in the Indian Navy was 45 vehicles, in November 2020 one plane crashed during a training flight over the Arabian Sea), to which a number of claims arose, then India became hastily look for other “decks”.

The French Rafale-M, which is armed with the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier and the American F / A-18 Super Hornet in its latest version of Block III, which began entering service with the US Navy in 2021, are competing for the right to be bought by India. These well-known fighters belong to the 4 ++ class due to the modernization carried out. It is rather difficult to judge how much better they are than the Russian MiG-29K – in many respects they are similar, and have not been encountered in real air combat.

Here we can assume that New Delhi will opt for a French fighter – the land-based Rafale is already in the Indian Air Force, and deliveries of the deck version for the new aircraft carrier can go through much faster than with the American Super Hornets. We must assume that the Russian MiG-29K will continue to operate for some time, and then, you see, it will get better with the deck versions of the Su-57 and Su-75. By the way, in the Russian Navy, where there are slightly more than twenty such aircraft, the MiG-29K remains the main carrier-based aircraft fighter. However, he will soon need a replacement.

Over the years, Russia has supplied India with a fairly large number of aircraft (the Indian Air Force’s fleet is now 80 percent equipped with Soviet and Russian equipment), including fighters. In addition to the massive MiG-21s, these were the multipurpose MiG-29s (including the carrier-based K / KUB) and the MiG-27 supersonic fighter-bombers. The French “line” in the Indian Air Force is represented by multipurpose Mirage 2000 (H / TH) in the amount of 50 pieces and Jaguar fighter-bombers (joint development of Great Britain and France) in the amount of about 100 aircraft.

All of them are already obsolete. In the event of the acquisition of the Rafale-M, India’s aircraft fleet will be significantly renewed. The contract for the supply of 36 Rafales worth 7.87 billion euros was signed by New Delhi with the French government back in September 2016, but its implementation was delayed and there was a possibility that the Indians would change their mind, primarily due to the high prices. However, the point of no return has been passed, French fighters are already flying with the identification marks of the Indian Air Force. It is likely that some of them will be deck-based.

In general, with carrier-based fighters, Russia flew like plywood over New Delhi. However, this is not the last problem. All, too, the Sohu publication claims that India plans to abandon the contract for the purchase of almost two thousand Russian T-72 and T-90 tanks. And now New Delhi is negotiating with Paris about “special” terms of supply.

“France intends to squeeze Russia out of the Indian arms market as part of a plan to modernize Indian military vehicles (FRCV). According to the published documents, the French company Nexter intends to win a tender to supply India with new tanks to replace the T-90 and T-72. The French will provide the Indians with their Leclerc main battle tank, which has the ‘best chance’ of winning as it outperforms all other models, including the Russian T-14, ”the Chinese newspaper reported.

It is worth noting here that having resumed the FRCV (Combat Vehicles of the Future) program for military-technical renewal, which aims at modern battle tanks and other armored vehicles, New Delhi sent requests not only to France and Leclerc. Similar “letters of happiness” were received by Russian manufacturers of T-14 Armata tanks, American M1 Abrams, German Leopard 2, South Korean K2, Turkish Atalay, Serbian M-84, Ukrainian T-84, Italian Ariete, Israeli Merkava, British Challenger GB. In total, New Delhi plans to acquire 1,770 vehicles and transfer technology that will allow the production of tanks in India itself. And here it is Russia that is more willing to enter into contracts involving the licensed production of weapons, including the T-90S / SK tanks, and in the future, the T-14 “Armata”, on the territory of India itself. One of the latter – an additional 464 vehicle kits for their own assembly of tanks.

The last visit of the President is also memorable Vladimir Putin to India on December 6 last year, the main goal of which was the further promotion of Russian weapons, both export and licensed. It is no coincidence that the day of his arrival in New Delhi coincided with the first deliveries of the Russian S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft missile systems to the Indian army (a contract for the supply of five complexes, worth more than $ 5 billion, was signed in 2018). In general, the “weapons topic” was dominant both at the talks at the level of the defense and foreign ministers of the two countries, and at the level of Putin with the Indian Prime Minister. Narendroy Fashion… In general, today Russia and India are implementing such joint projects as the production of Su-30MKI fighters and T-90S tanks under license, jointly developing the fifth generation fighter (FGFA), and also working on the BrahMos universal missile systems.

– Of course, there is no need to delude oneself on this matter – India has not made a final choice in favor of Russia, – considers military expert Vladislav Shurygin… – Recently, New Delhi has been choosing between buying weapons from Russia, the United States, Europe and its own production. Hindus are constantly holding tenders, changing conditions, putting forward new requirements. The same contract for the S-400 for $ 5.43 billion will be extended until 2025 and the cash tranches will be received gradually. The same can be said under the agreement, according to which India will acquire 464 tanks from Russia.

T-90MS. The contract does not provide for the supply of ready-made tanks, but for vehicle kits for subsequent assembly at Indian enterprises. However, the corporation “Uralvagonzavod” (a tank manufacturer) is glad of the same – this is one of the largest foreign contracts in recent years. Vietnam and Iraq, for example, requested the supply of 64 and 73 of these tanks, respectively.

Rosoboronexport itself is optimistic about the future. CEO of the company Alexander Mikheev claims that Russian weapons are still in demand in regional markets. “The portfolio of orders in the countries of Southeast Asia has grown significantly, the volume of contracts signed in 2021 with the countries of sub-Saharan Africa approached the level of 2 billion euros,” the press service of Rosoboronexport quotes Mikheev as saying.

The list of top 5 export samples presented in 2021 included the Checkmate light tactical aircraft (Su-75), the Orion-E UAV reconnaissance and strike complex, the TOS-2 Tosochka MLRS with thermobaric ammunition, the AK-19 Kalashnikov assault rifle and anti-aircraft missile system S-350E “Vityaz”. T-14 Armata tanks and fifth-generation Su-57 fighters, alas, are not on the list.

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