New Delhi: The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has brought into focus the Indian military’s heavy dependence on Russian equipment, which forms the backbone of the Army, Navy and the Air Force.
Several estimates have stressed on India’s dependence on Russia for military hardware, which includes submarines, to fighter aircraft, to even a basic rifle.
Even though India’s defence imports from Russia have seen a steady decline since 2014, 70 per cent of its military still handles Russian equipment, even from the USSR era.
ThePrint details the various systems that are in use with the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force, some of which are close to being phased out, while others are new inductions and will serve the forces for at least another two decades.
The Indian Army’s imports from Russia can be divided broadly into the following categories — armoured and mechanised systems, artillery, and small arms.
Armoured and mechanised systems
Almost the entire set of India’s armoured and mechanised assets is of Russian origin, with the exception of two regiments of the indigenous Arjun tank.
India’s armoured columns are made up of the T-90 and T-72 tanks. The T-90s are now manufactured in India under licence from the Russians without any transfer of technology. They are an upgrade of the T-72s, which are still in use with the Army. Both have been deployed in Ladakh in the wake of the stand-off with China at the Line of Actual Control.
India had earlier imported T-55 tanks from Russia, which are now used in pillbox configuration at the Line of Control for targeted firing.
India’s mechanised columns are armed with BMP armoured personnel carriers, which are again manufactured in India under licence production.
Artillery and missiles
While India is moving towards indigenisation of artillery weapon requirements, the main rocket systems in use with the Army are Russian, Smerch and Grad.
India’s artillery also uses the M-46, which is a 130 mm, manually loaded and towed artillery field gun.
When it comes to anti-tank and air defence systems in the Army, a significant portion is of Russian origin — Konkurs Anti-Tank-Guided-Missiles (ATGM), Korent ATGM, OSA surface-to-air missile, Pechora surface-to-air missile, Strela surface-to-air missile and the Igla.
India also has the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missiles, BrahMos, that are a product of an Indo-Russia joint venture.
Small arms and air defence guns
Even when it comes to small arms, Russian systems rule the roost.
The most common rifle seen in the hands of a soldier at the LoC and in the hinterland for anti-terrorism operation is the AK-47, which is a Russian product.
India and Russia have also signed an agreement to jointly manufacture AK-203 rifles in India.
Besides, the Army uses the Dragunov rifle, NSV machine guns, and the OSV-96 anti-materiel rifles — all of Russian origin. It also has the Shilka anti-aircraft gun.
The Indian Navy’s imports can be categorised into surface and submarines, besides fighters.
When it comes to firepower, the Navy has the Kh-35 and P-20 anti-ship missiles, Klub anti-ship/land attack missiles and APR–3E torpedo from Russia.
The Kh-35 is a turbojet subsonic missile. It can be launched from helicopters, surface ships and coastal defence batteries. The APR–3E is an acoustic homecoming torpedo designed by Russia.
The Navy also operates several surface ships which are of Russian origin, including the Rajput-class destroyers, Talwar-class frigates, and Veer-class missile corvettes.
The Rajput-class destroyers are modified versions of the Kashin-class destroyers, built by the former USSR. They were constructed in present-day Ukraine. Russia’s Yantar Shipyard launched the advanced Talwar-class frigates in 2021. This was the third batch being developed for India.
India continues to operate 8 Kilo-class submarines procured from Russia, which form the bulk of India’s conventional submarine fleet.
The only fighters that the Navy uses are 45 MiG-29Ks, which are operated from India’s sole aircraft carrier — INS Vikramaditya — which is again of Russian origin. India also operates the Russian Kamov anti-submarine warfare helicopters.
India has been operating on lease the Chakra series of Russian nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) for years to train crews for India’s own fleet of ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs).
While the last Chakra went back last year, India is set to get another one by end of 2025.
While the IAF has now diversified to French and Israeli systems, the majority of its equipment, including fighters and missiles, is of Russian origin.
Topping the chart are the Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighters, which constitute about 14 of the 30 squadrons of the IAF.
Then there are the MiG-29UPG and MiG-21 fighters from Russia that are in service with the force. The IAF also operates the IL-76 heavy transport aircraft besides the IL-78 tankers. India has also converted two IL-76 aircraft into Airborne Warning And Control Systems.
Since the IAF uses several Russian aircraft, it also has a large number of missiles from the country, which includes the R-77, R-37 and the R-73 air-to-air missiles, and the Kh-59, Kh-35 and Kh-31 air-to-surface missiles, besides the KAB laser-guided bombs which are operated from the Su-30 MKI.
The IAF has also bought the S-400 Triumf air defence system, deliveries of which began in December last year.
The force also operates the Mi-17 utility helicopters, the Mi-35 attack helicopters and the Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopters from Russia.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)