The ongoing war in Ukraine has significantly hampered Russian defence exports and the country’s own military supplies. The supply chain crisis has led the Russian defence industry to turn towards the Indian defence industry to supply spare parts and human resources to their clientele as stipulated in their contracts.
Rostec – the Russian defence conglomerate overseeing Moscow’s military-industrial complex, has reportedly approached an undisclosed number of Indian companies to supply them with parts for artillery, tanks, air-defence systems, and other exported supplies. The need for Indian engineers with the technical know-how on these systems has also been sought.
Open-source-intelligence (OSINT) indicates that Rostec reached out to the following Indian firms: Armoured Vehicles Nigam, Advanced Weapons & Equipment India, and Yantra India, all of these are publicly owned indigenous companies with factories all across the country. Armoured Vehicles Nigam, Advanced Weapons & Equipment India, and Yantra India did not respond to requests for comment.
These companies have previously been known to manufacture Russian military material under licence over the past few decades. The Indian firms have been reportedly asked to help the Russian companies honour the contracts made with their clients and also help supply the Russian military machine in the ongoing armed conflict. Rostec, in particular, has had its supply chain disrupted due to the war, with supplies to their armed forces and export supplies taking a significant toll, especially in Southeast Asia. Rostec did not respond to requests for comment.
Adding to the Russian defence industry’s woes are that South Asian and African customers seem hesitant to enter into a contract with Russian companies due to sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union (EU). The impact of sanctions has seemingly deterred South Asian and African clients from entering into a contract, especially ones to handle the maintenance of materials which have already been delivered, as they fear the prospect of being excluded from the financial markets of the West.
Two Indian companies, Krasny Defence Technologies (formerly known as Krasny Marine Services) and Crown Group, have been asked by Russia’s United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC) to provide specialised personnel [Human Resources] to both operate and maintain Russian weapons and vessels in various Southeast Asian countries. It may be poignant to note that the son of a former Indian Navy Chief, Admiral S.M Nanda, Lieutenant Commander Suresh Nanda (r), heads Crown Group and has reportedly had associations with USC in India for the past several years. Krasny Defence Technologies and Crown Group did not respond to requests for comment.
India is already pitching to support the Russian customers in South East Asia and Africa. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has pitched its services to maintain and service the Malaysian Su-30 MKM. As one of the largest producers of Russian-origin Su-30 aircraft, HAL recently stated that it can provide the necessary support to the RMAF for the Su-30 MKM fleet, which is experiencing low serviceability due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis. On August 18, HAL signed an agreement to open an office in Kuala Lumpur.
In Africa, Uganda has signed an agreement with India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the maintenance and technical support of the Ugandan Air Force’s Sukhoi Su-30MK2 fighter jets. The MOU was signed on March 4, 2022, by the Indian High Commission in Uganda and Uganda Peoples Defence Forces Commander Charles Lutaaya, according to the Ugandan news website The Independent.
So far, United Aircraft Corporation of Russia, specifically the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant, has been in charge of its maintenance. Following accidents in 2012 and 2016, the plant repaired Ugandan jets.
Neither the Ugandan military nor HAL have provided any information regarding the reason for the change from Russian to Indian maintenance support. The Ugandan Air Force initially possessed six Su-30s; however, one crashed in 2020, killing both pilots.
“India is one of the largest users of former Soviet and Russian equipment outside Russia and has immense expertise in maintaining Russian equipment. It has been building the Russian Su-30s in its Nashik plant. Coincidently, 11 Base Repair Depot (11 BRD) of Air Force Station at Ojhar, also in Nasik, has been overhauling the Mig-29s for a long and has accumulated a lot of indigenised parts for the aircraft. HAL manufactures RD-33 Series-3 Engine for the IAF Mig-29s. India can offer its services for the maintenance of Russian Su-30 and Mig-29 aircraft to operators in Asia and elsewhere,” said Girish Linganna, Indian Defence Analyst and Consulting Editor at Frontier India.
“The Indian Air Force is also retiring its MiG-21s by 2025. India can offer spare parts and repair services to interested users around the globe,” he added.
New Delhi is walking the diplomatic tightrope with Moscow, and its defence and oil sectors, while maintaining its role as a strategic partner to the West, particularly Washington in Southeast Asia, amidst the ongoing geopolitical upheaval.