India, Russia To Sign Defense Pact For Su-30 Fleet

India, Russia

The proposed defense agreement will work to speed up the delivery of spare parts and supplies to help maintain India’s Su-30MKI fleet. In doing so, the agreement will enhance the Indian Air Force’s ability to maintain a combat-ready fleet that can be used for a greater number of operations. At present, around 50 per cent of the fleet is operational at all times and Indian defense officials aspire to increase the fleet’s combat-readiness in the coming months.

Russia recently played host to a delegation of Indian journalists wherein plans for an improved defense arrangement were discussed; the United Aircraft Corporation of Russia arranged a media event where the Marketing Director of Sukhoi, the Russian aircraft-manufacturing agency, interacted with the Indian media. Valery V. Chishchevoy told the Indian reporters, “We recently got an inquiry from India for a long term spares agreement for five years. It will increase the serviceability of the aircraft. Spares contract will allow us to deliver to deliver spares faster once we get an indent from the Air Force.”

In conversation with The Economic Times, Chishchevoy shared, “A delegation from the Indian defence ministry is expected in the second half of December and we hope to have a positive decision and sign the contract at the soonest.”

India, Russia Work To Speed Up Bureaucratic Systems

As per the supply agreement, Russia will deliver spare parts for the Su-30MKI fleet to India at a much faster rate than before. The agreement is intended to last for the next five years.

The agreement aims to improve the existing process for ordering and delivering aircraft supply parts: up until now the recipient state has had to file a separate application for each individual spare part following which the order would pass through different phases that included licensing, clearance at the customs’ level, completing bank guarantees and more. It is reported that at present, it can take up to a year for a request for spare parts to be processed and the production for the same to begin, thereby extending the actual delivery to well over after a year after the application is filed. Under the new system that the agreement hopes to establish, the Russian manufacturers will begin producing the requested spare parts within a month of when the Indian Air Force submits a request for the same. Agency officials have shared that factors such pricing changes and costing will be taken into consideration while devising the new agreement.

The decision to do away with bureaucratic sluggishness is at the heart of Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s plans for the Indian Armed Forces. Defence Minister Parrikar addressed the Indian Parliament sometime back regarding the need to revise the existing procedure for the delivery of spare parts, stating, “We have been trying to improve the serviceability of Sukhois. It has improved by seven% in last 8-9 months to reach to 56-57 per cent.”

India Prioritizes Military Readiness

Defence Minister Parrikar has informed the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament, that the Indian Air Force hopes to increase the serviceability of the Su-30MKI fleet to 75 per cent by the end of this year. The Indian official has been looking to reduce the downtime that the Su-30MKI fleet currently experiences as a result of technical problems. Combat-capability and military readiness are at the heart of the Indian government’s new initiative for faster technical and servicing-related assistance from their Russian defense partners.

Valery Chishchevoy has shared that the primary thrust behind the proposed agreement is a desire to raise the Indian Su-30MKI fleet’s readiness to at least 60 per cent, if not more. The availability and readiness of a particular fleet refer to the actual number of airplanes of a particular fleet that can be deployed for operations as and when a need arises. The ability to do so immediately at any point of time is the mark of a truly superior and effective defense force. Currently, the Indian Air Force says that its Su-30MKI fleet has an availability of only 50 per cent at any given point of time. The other planes are usually marked unavailable because of ongoing repair work or because the technical team is awaiting the delivery of spare parts from the manufacturers.

Viacheslav Yu Lozan, the Director of Sukhoi’s After Sale Center, said, “Under the new contract, after the receipt of a request from the Indian air force, the spare part will be delivered to the air force warehouse within 4-12 months, depending on the time it takes to manufacture the part. As of now, 12 months are required for just to start the production, this will reduce to 30 days.”

The Sukhoi S-30MKI jet is believed to be one of the best fighter jets in the world currently; RAF Air Marshall Christopher Harper famously said that the jet is “absolutely masterful in dogfights”. The S-30MKI is at the heart of the Indian Air Force’s strategic structure and Defence Minister Parrikar plans to maximize the Indian Air Force’s capability by optimizing the fleet.

Defense experts share that raising the fleet’s availability to 75 per cent can prove tricky, but Sukhoi Director Chishchevoy has shared that the goal is achievable and both India and Russia are working towards the same. The Russian manufacturing expert revealed that a decade back, during the early years of the S-30 MKI’s production, Russia floated a proposal to retain Sukhoi as the sole supplier of spare parts and technical assistance for the fleet: it is believed that with such an arrangement raising the fleet’s availability to 75 per cent is all but “guaranteed”.

New Delhi, Moscow Collaborate On Defense Development

The discussion to improve defence serviceability and technical cooperation between Russia and India is not a new one; Moscow and New Delhi have been working on a long-term defense cooperation process since 2006 and reached a technical assistance agreement in 2012. Officials reveal that prior to the 2012 pact, it would usually take between 8 and 12 months for an application for spare parts to be processed and acted upon but the new arrangement helped the two countries reduce it significantly, sometimes taking as little as 60 days. While the newer system marks a great improvement, both countries have realized a need to further enhance the fleet’s readiness, which is why the current proposal is likely to get government approval on both ends quickly.

To further build on the idea, Sukhoi is reported to be considering the idea of establishing a joint venture with an Indian agency in order to be able to manufacture and deliver spare parts even faster. Mr. Chishchevoy has shared that the Russian agency is willing to form an alliance with a private Indian firm but he has also expressed that the Indian private sector has not developed the capacity to undertake highly specialized technological projects as yet. Mr. Chishchevoy said that the team at Sukhoi has enjoyed their collaboration with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) thus far.

A Look At The Sukhoi Su-30MKI

The Sukhoi Su-30MKI plane, referred to as the Flanker-H by NATO, is a twinjet fighter developed by the Russian manufacturer Sukhoi and constructed for the Indian Air Force under an agreement with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The all-weather jet is a long-range superiority fighter. An agreement between Russia and India in 2000 authorized the first batch of 140 jets following which the initial Russian-made model was incorporated into the Indian Air Force in 2002. The first locally assembled variant was added to the IAF fleet two years later, in 2004. The Indian Air Force has ordered more Sukhoi Su-30MKI jets to raise its total fleet to 272 planes.

The Sukhoi jets are especially designed keeping the Indian Air Force’s needs in mind and they use Indian systems and avionics arrangements along with Israeli and French sub-systems. The Indian Air Force intends to keep the Sukhoi S-30MKI jets at the heart of its fleet till 2020 and further.

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