Ukraine is making a strong push for increasing bilateral cooperation with India, at the expense of Russia’s market share, with key agreements inked at Defexpo 2016 in Goa. India’s Reliance Defence Ltd and Ukrainian state aircraft manufacturer Antonov agreed on a deal worth Rs 35,000 crore for joint construction of multipurpose transport aircraft for military as well as commercial use — a deal which had earlier stalled between India and Russia. Ukraine is also attempting to break Russia’s “monopoly” in terms of cooperation with India by poaching deals from Russia for repairs and maintenance of India’s Soviet-era military equipment. A Ukrainian consortium of defence manufacturers has made offers to the Ministry of Defence for servicing equipment and carriers of the Soviet-era. The offers are up to 50% lower than Russian offers.
Reliance Defence Ltd said in a statement that the firms would “jointly address various requirements, including 50-80 seat passenger aircraft in their basic configurations and in transport, maritime patrol and other military variants.” The aircraft will be powered by two turbo-fan engines. The medium lift aircraft will be able to operate on short field runways as well as unpaved surfaces. The partnership with Ukraine covers design of the fixed wing military aircraft, which will be configured for use in both tactical and strategic roles. Reliance Defence Ltd said in a statement that there will be a requirement of over 500 such aircraft over the next 15 years.
The site for production of the aircraft is already defined. The planes will be built at India’s first integrated Aerospace Park at Mihan, Nagpur. The Indian government has laid out a special strategic plan for this area, which is to build everything on its own territory.
The agreement was inked between Anil Ambani, chairman of the Reliance Group, and Oleh Gladkovskyi, deputy secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defence council and chairman of the country’s Inter-Agency Committee for Military Technichal Cooperation and Export Control Policy. Currently, Indian Air Force and Navy have over 100 Ukrainian made AN-32 transport aircraft and it is in the process of upgrading its fleet.
Petro Fedoruk, chief advisor of Ukraine’s largest defence industry consortium, Ukroboronprom, said at the Defexpo 2016 currently underway in Goa on Friday that Ukraine is looking to “push Russia out of its monopoly position in the repair of Soviet equipment”. Fedoruk said that Ukraine intends to manage Soviet-era “headaches” on a long-term basis, “which India cannot manage alone”. While speaking on the decline in Indian-Ukrainian military cooperation in the late 1990s, Fedoruk said that Russia forcefully blocked Ukraine’s entry for over a decade after Kiev sold a large shipment to T-80 tanks to Pakistan. Fedoruk said that Ukraine can revive the old Soviet-era equipment and offer multiple solutions as it was “the original equipment manufacturer”.
India’s Ministry of Defence signed MoUs with several Ukrainian companies for the manufacturing of 500 transport planes as well as providing gas turbines for Indian warships. This is important in the backdrop of the previously stalled joint deal between India and Russia on the development of a Multi-role Transport Aircraft transport warplane along with Russia’s rejection to service the ships. According to Nikolai Gordienko, Ukroboronprom naval projects head at Defexpo, Ukraine has offered “new solutions to manage and refit the Soviet-era aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, an offer which is 50% cheaper than the Russian offer”.
The carrier Admiral Gorshkov was sold to India in 2004 and was later rechristened INS Vikramaditya. Ukroboronprom deputy director general of strategy Artur Kheruvymov told reporters that India and Ukraine plan to organise a joint military technical commission on servicing all manner of Soviet-era military equipment. He said that the two countries are planning to form joint ventures in India for upgrading, overhauling and manufacturing of spares for Soviet-built air defence systems.
Soviet-era air defence systems in India’s possession include Kvadrat, OSA-AKM Strela-1, Tunguska, Shilka, portable IGLA and Strela-2 systems.
Responding to statements made by the Ukrainian delegation at Defexpo in Goa, Viktor Murakhovsky, member advisory council of the Russian Military-Industrial Commission, said that the words of the Ukrainian delegation are part of “pure fantasy”. Murakhovsky said that the anti-aircraft missile systems listed by Ukrainian representatives for service and repair were actually manufactured on Russian territory of the Soviet Republic.
One area where Ukraine has created a pedigree for itself and might help India is assisting in repairs of gas turbines with the Zorya-Mashproekt plant in Nikolaev believed to possess all the required competencies. Vladimir Drozhev, deputy director of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, told reporters at Defexpo that they were not worried about “Ukraine chipping away at Russia’s market share in India”. He said that Russia’s military-technical cooperation with India was based on long-term planning that stretched till 2020. Drozhev added that Russia “fully supported the Make in India initiative of the Indian government.”
For his part, Vladimir Drozhev, the deputy director of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, told Gazeta.ru’s correspondent at Defexpo that there was no sense worrying about Ukraine chipping away at Russia’s market share in India. “Our military-technical cooperation is implemented according to long-term planning stretching to 2020. Moreover, the Russian side fully supports the ‘Make in India’ initiative announced by the Indian government,” the official noted.