Wednesday, December 7, 2022
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Why Russian strikes on Ukraine’s defence industry sites are worrying Indian Navy & IAF

Navy is heavily dependent on Ukraine for gas turbine engines, while IAF runs Antonov An-32. Spare parts are stocked, but supply from Ukraine may be affected later.

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New Delhi: Pictures and videos have surfaced, showing factories of aircraft manufacturer Antonov and gas turbine maker Zorya-Mashproekt on fire in Ukraine due to Russian missile and artillery strikes. The strikes spell trouble for the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force, though they seem to be insulated for now from the immediate impact of the ever-widening war in Ukraine.

India procures several parts of the Russian systems in use with the armed forces from Ukraine. When the USSR disintegrated, many of its defence manufacturing hubs remained in Ukraine.

The Indian Air Force operates over 100 An-32 aircraft manufactured by Antonov. These transport planes, which form the backbone of the military, are in the final stages of an upgrade.

Similarly, the Indian Navy depends on Zorya-Mashproekt to power many of its surface ships, including the Talwar-class stealth frigates and Delhi-class destroyers.

Sources in the defence and security establishment said the worry is that while spare parts and other systems are stocked for immediate maintenance and refit cycles, their supply from Ukraine may be affected in the future.

The concern has also been flagged by former Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash (retd), who tweeted saying that “given the Indian Navy’s large holdings of Ukrainian marine gas turbines, which power Indian destroyers, frigates and corvettes, this is an opportune moment to seriously consider a Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)/ Zorya Mashproekt joint venture to manufacture them in India”.

Prakash said India missed the bus when the USSR disintegrated, and both scientists and technology were available for the taking.

Sources explained that unlike the IAF, whose dependence on Ukrainian firms is limited to the An-32 and certain missiles, the Navy is heavily dependent.

Even for the two Admiral Grigorovich-class guided-missile stealth frigates that are being made for the Indian Navy by a Russian shipyard as part of a $2.5 billion deal, New Delhi had to first procure gas turbines from Ukraine and hand them over to Russia.

Also read: Want more cooperation with India in aerospace industry, top Ukrainian official says

Russia targeting defence-industrial installations 

Sources in the defence establishment said they are still studying the full impact of the Russia-Ukraine crisis on India’s military.

They added it seems the Russians are specifically targeting the defence-industrial installations of Ukraine, and this could eventually impact India in the long run.

Ukraine was also keen on ramping up its defence ties with India, but sources said the war would prove to be a deadly blow to those plans.

ThePrint had earlier reported that the Indian defence establishment was concerned about the long-term impact of the Russian attack the most. 

This includes restricted manoeuvring space for purchase of Russian equipment, delivery of contracted systems, spare parts and also lessons that China will draw from this conflict amid a continuing standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The sanctions imposed by various countries also impact the payment process to ensure steady supply of contracted equipment from Russia.

(Edited by Saikat Niyogi) 

Also read: India expects West sanctions on Russia to impact key sectors, defence, engg could take big hit


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