India-Russia Military Relations: Delay in Ka-226T project and SPAD Gun Missile System raised during talks

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June 25, 2020 7:26 PM

The Military and technical cooperation has been the key areas of the privileged Strategic Partnership between the countries.

Russia has been the main and the preferred supplier of military platforms to India for seven decades. (Reuters Image/ File)Russia has been the main and the preferred supplier of military platforms to India for seven decades. (Reuters Image/ File)

Even as Russia assured India of delivering the defence contracts on time and some ahead of times, when defence minister Rajnath Singh and the Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov met, Self Propelled Air Defence Gun Missile System (SPAD-GMS) project, the status of 200 Kamov Ka-226T helicopters came up for discussion too.

“During the talks all the projects with the Russian side were discussed and a request was made to expedite their delivery and in some cases to deliver ahead of time. From Russia, concerns were raised about the SPAD-GMS project and the Kamov Ka-226T helicopters” confirmed sources to the Financial Express Online.

The Military and technical cooperation has been the key areas of the privileged Strategic Partnership between the countries. Russia has been the main and the preferred supplier of military platforms to India for seven decades.

In January this year the Ministry of Defence (MoD) decided to refer the Self Propelled Air Defence Gun Missile System (SPAD-GMS) deal in which Russian and South Korean companies are competing to the independent monitors who are expected to prepare a report and share soon.

What is the issue between the two?

Though Russia had failed the trials, it has been raising objections to the short listing of the South Korean company Hanwha Defense’s offer for the SPAD-GMS project.

During the DefExpo in Lucknow this year the winner of the contract was expected to be announced but it has been put on hold because Russia again made a representation to the MoD.

Companies from Russia and South Korea had responded to the request for proposal for this platform and claimed their systems meet the requirements as stated in the RfP.

In the $ 3 billion deal, the Russians have made several representations related to the non-compliance to the specifications in the RFP.

According to sources, the Russians have indicated that the system offered by South Korea’s Hanwha Defense is one generation older and would require an immediate upgrade.

“Given its successful combat experience in the Middle East, Russia has offered Pantsir systems to India with the full technical adaptation to its needs and to build a strong maintenance support network which has been already perfected with other customers,” according to an industry source.

“It has also suggested Transfer of technologies and production of some of the components in the framework of Make in India program and offered to establish a service centre in India.”

According to the source quoted above, “The Russian Pantsir air defence missile/gun system with its high mobility and versatility of use is what India needs for strengthening its air defence capabilities and can be to counter with high efficiency the unmanned vehicle’s threats.

Also, it can be easily integrated into the wider air defence network and act jointly with S-400 air defence missile systems, which India has requested be delivered ahead of schedule.”

Financial Express Online had an exclusive interaction with Hanwha Defense officials who denied all the points made by the Russian side.

Why is this needed by the Indian Army?

The Indian Army has to replace its 1360 obsolete Bofors L 70 40mm single barrel and Soviet-era ZU-23-2 towed 23 mm twin-barrel weapon systems.

And for this, it had issued a global tender in 2013, in which there were two systems fielded by the Russian side — the upgraded Tunguska system by Almaz Ante and Pantsir by KBP Tula systems. Both went to trials and failed.

And, South Korea’s Hanwha Defense had fielded — Hybrid Biho system which too was not fully compliant.

According to the Indian Army, “The systems offered by both Russia and South Korea have short comings.”

The delay in K-226 Helicopters

All the issues related to the indigenous content in Ka-226T have yet to be resolved. For the production of these helicopters under a joint venture has been formed — Indo-Russian Helicopters Limited (IRHL) and Russian Helicopters Holding Company (part of Rostec State Corporation).

What is causing the delay?

There continues to be differences over the indigenous content as well as the Transfer of Technology.

The deal for the Ka-226 T was first announced in 2014 and it was under the `Make in India’ initiative.

Lack of clarity on two critical issues has delayed this project from taking off for almost four years now.

This helicopter is expected to replace the single-engine Cheetah/Chetak for the Indian Army which has been looking for light utility helicopters.

These helicopters will be useful for flying utilities for the soldiers posted at the world’s highest battlefield — Siachen Glacier.

As per the MoD’s tender almost 70 per cent of the machine should be made here locally. So far, there has been no clarity from the Russian side on this.

Once the issues are resolved, as has been reported earlier, the Ka-226T will be produced under four-phased programme here at a factory in Bengaluru. As per the plans 35 helicopters will be produced in the first phase with 3.3 per cent local components, then 25 helicopters in the second phase and will have 15 per cent local content. And then in the next one 30 helicopters with 35 per cent of indigenous content.

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