India beefs up its strategic aircraft capability


After much hullabaloo over last month’s pictures of China’s Y-20 strategic transport aircraft, Boeing announced the delivery of India’s first C-17A Globemaster III aircraft for flight testing at Edwards AFB in Palmdale, California.

The January 23rd press release indicates Boeing is on track to deliver an additional four C-17A before year’s end. The remaining five will have a 2014 delivery date, completing the $5.8 billion contract signed in June 2011.

The contract—which follows the arrival of the sixth and last C-130J Hercules from Lockheed Martin in December 2011–will see India become the second largest operator of the C-17 heavy lift aircraft only after the United States.

As such, many defense analysts continue to point to these contracts, inter alia, as key drivers for deepened US-Indo relations despite inherently complicated US export controls, and what are often viewed by Indian defense observers as diluted offset agreements for technology transfer.

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Russia to Test Pantsyr Gun System Against Cruise Missiles

According to a report from RIAN on 17OCT12, the “Russian armed forces are to carry out live firing tests of the Army’s Pantsyr short-range gun-missile air defense system against cruise missile targets for the first time at a range in northern Russia.” (Back in 2010, it was rumored that India was to be a potential buyer of the Pantsyr-S1, a Tula-based Design Bureau of Instrument-building or KBP manufactured system. As suggested in an earlier blog post, watching how producing countries utilize their equipment may be an important indicator as to how a buyer may deploy their system).

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Russia to Keep Silo and Mobile ICBM Launchers in Future

On 01NOV12 SMF Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Valery Mazurov announced Russia’s Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) will continue deploying silo-based and mobile ballistic missile launchers in the future. (Although not entirely pertinent to the focus of this blog, following developments in Russia’s military establishment may provide important details as to how Russian equipment may be used by its export customers. However the Topol-M is certainly not a contender for export to India).

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Russia Will Abandon CTR

India’s all weather ally, Russia, has recently announced its intent to withdraw from the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program with the United States. During the course of this 21 year program, more than 7,600 warheads, 902 ICBMs and 684 submarine-launched ballistic missiles had been eliminated from Russia’s stores. With the reduction of spending from CTR in Russia, other states like India and Pakistan may now become the focus of securitization and arms reduction. (Since 2004, Congress passed legislation supporting the expansion of the CTR Program to extend to states beyond the former Soviet Union).

Although this is one possibility, the Russians have yet to completely rule out the negotiation of a new amended treaty to reflect the changes in US-Russian relations.

Vikramaditya Further Delayed

NDTV on 10OCT12 reports the INS Vikramaditya – India’s second aircraft carrier – is further delayed. The aircraft carrier, being purchased from Russia for USD 2.3 billion or over Rs. 10, 000 crores, is now likely to be given to India only towards the end of 2013, nearly a year after its scheduled delivery date.

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Australian Visit Yields Uranium Sales

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard concluded her first visit to  India on 17OCT12. During the visit, Gillard and Indian Prime  Minister Manmohan Singh discussed the resumption of uranium sales,  since Australia overturned legislation in December 2011 that banned uranium  sales to India — a country that has not signed  the NPT.

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India eyes Russia to overcome tank ammunition shortage

Facing a critical shortage of ammunition for Army’s fleet of T-90 and T-72 tanks after the blacklisting of an Israeli firm, the Defence Ministry is now looking to procure these shells from Russia.

The severe shortage of tank ammunition was first highlighted by then Army Chief Gen V K Singh in a top secret letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in March this year which later found its way to the media.

After the blacklisting of supplier of the FSAPDS (Fin Stabilized Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot) used by T-90 and T-72 tanks, Russia has now been approached for supplying these tank shells, Defence Ministry sources told PTI here.

To avoid such shortages in future, the Defence Ministry is also seeking a transfer of technology from the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) to produce the ammunition indigenously.

Gen Singh had pointed out in his letter that only three to four days of this particular ammunition was left in the inventory of the armoured regiments.

Later on, the Army had also informed the Standing Committee on Defence about the shortage and how the situation had worsened by the recent blacklisting of its supplier Israeli Military Industry (IMI).