13:09 Apr. 7, 2016
Ukraine is doing more than USD 100 million in annual defense business with India, and aims to increase it to USD 500 million in the next three years
The article below is a translation of the opinion piece originally published in Yevropeyska Pravda
A sensational event for both Ukraine and the world happened in India but it was unfortunately by-passed in the headlines of the Ukrainian press. Despite this fact, during the Defexpo India 2016 in Goa the country's ministry of defence along with several companies signed more than a dozen memorandums for the manufacturing of 500 transport planes as well as the supply of gas turbines for Indian warships. This took place in light of the previously frozen joint project with Russia about the development of a transport warplane Multi-role Transport Aircraft (MTA) and the rejection from the Russian side to service the ships.
The Defexpo India 2016 theme covers the manufacturing and development of weapons for ground forces and army naval forces, including air defence, army aviation as well as dual-use products.
The exhibition is pivotal for the whole of South and Southeast Asia. It is held every two years and this was the ninth exhibition to date. More than 600 companies from around the world take part in the exhibit. The Defexpo India 2016 display area is about 40 thousand square metres.
The Ukrainian delegation was headed by the government-owned "Ukroboronprom". They showcased nearly 40 kinds of products, developed and made in Ukraine. The Director General of "Ukroboronprom" Roman Romanov says the concern "has a significant capacity to fulfil large orders, to produce innovative weapons; and is fully open to cooperation in all fields."
Read also Ukrainian army to get new weapons
Within the framework of the exhibition, the Ukrainian delegation conducted eight successful negotiations with the Minister of Defence of India and the country's top military command.
Photo source: Ukroboronprom
According to the Russian press, Ukraine's success came as the result of ‘aggressive marketing of Ukrainian delegation.' But despite undisguised toxicity towards Ukraine, some Russian aviation industry experts gave quite a number of positive comments.
But media coverage of the Defexpo India 2016 is not the main point here. Deals which were sealed at the exhibition are more important.
Someone has achievements and agreements, someone – yet another failure
Indian Reliance Defence Ltd and Ukrainian state aircraft manufacturer Antonov agreed on joint construction of multipurpose transport aircraft for the needs of the military, paratroopers and also for the commercial use in India. It is about 500 planes with a total value of 5.3 billion dollars to be made during 15 years.
Reliance Defence Ltd said in a statement 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."
Photo source: Ukroboronprom
The location of aircraft production is already defined. It is India's first integrated Aerospace Park at Mihan, Nagpur, central India. Government of India has a special strategic concept in this area - to construct everything on its territory.
This efficiency is yet another slap in the face of Russia. While the Russians theorize about the "import substitution", India is able to make decisions and act; to do everything with its own labour force, and to import only technology and service of professionals.
The partnership with Ukrainian specialists and their technologies covers the design of fixed wing military aircraft, configured for use in tactical as well strategic roles. Powered by two turbo-fan engines, the medium lift aircraft can operate on short field runways as also unpaved surfaces.
"Low level tactical missions by this aircraft is aided by modern day avionics and navigation systems powered by fly-by-wire systems in all-weather round the clock operations," Reliance Defence Ltd adds.
Photo source: Ukroboronprom
The agreement was signed by Anil Ambani, the Chairman of the Reliance Group and Oleh Gladkovskyi, the Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine and the Chairman of the Inter-Agency Committee of Ukraine for Military Technical Cooperation and Export Control Policy.
Anil Ambani is a well-known Indian magnate and the owner of Reliance Group.
Indian Air Force and Navy currently has more than 100 Ukrainian made AN-32 transport aircraft and is in the process of upgrading its fleet.
Also there is a contract to establish a joint venture in India to modernize and overhaul the Soviet air defense systems - anti-aircraft missile systems: "Kvadrat ", "Strela- 1", "Tunguska ", "Shilka " portable complexes "Igla ", "Strela- 2".
According to Ukrainian experts, the annual military contracts with India add up to USD 100 million. In the next three years this figure will increase to USD 500 million. In particular, Ukrainian specialists offer India to jointly develop multiple rocket launcher system with a range of 100 km.
Photo source: Ukroboronprom
These facts indicate the level of Ukrainian achievements - both technical and marketing. Ukrainians have professionals, groundwork and partners to work with on international level.
But how do Russians comment on this March aircraft industry sensation?
Oleg Panteleyev, the director of Aviaport agency called the joint development of aircraft with Ukrainian specialists realistic. "Antonov has an almost complete family of aircrafts in different segments: AN-148, AN-158 and AN-178. This line is almost ready, which fits into the range, referred to in the agreement", - he said.
According to the agency director, this line of aircrafts can be finalised at the request of the Indian side in the terms of the selection of accessories and aviation electronics.
In addition, India and Ukraine have some experience of cooperation in repairing and modernization of AN-32 transport aircraft.
But what will happen to the frozen Indian-Russian project - a joint venture for the production of multipurpose transport aircraft MTA?
Russia and India signed the agreement on the development and construction of the MTA in 2007. Production was planned to be set up both in Russia and in India. Both sides were to invest about USD 300 million in the joint venture. They planned to produce 100 aircrafts for the Russian Air Force, 45 - for India, and to sell another 60 planes to the "third countries".
Why did this production and trading fail? Among the reasons for the suspension of the project, India listed a demand for a sharp increase in development costs from the Russian side, and dissatisfaction with a number of technical specifications of MTA.
According to Panteleyev, from the very beginning the "MTA project was extremely weak and the feasibility of its implementation has caused doubts." Sure thing! For eight years the Russians only traded on development costs instead of bringing the specifications of their aircraft to proper condition.
MTA - not the only bitter experience of India. In December 2015, the Indian CAG audit agency prepared expert report on local pilots' operation experience of the Su-30MKI fighter jets, bought from Russia.
According to these findings, the rate of flying ability of Russian jets is much lower than normal because the number of units of this type of aircraft often breaks.
CAG says that out of 210 Su-30MKI, operated by India, from 115 to 126 fighters are constantly on the ground because of the need for repair. According to Indian Defence Ministry, six military aircraft had been lost since the start of their operation.
Specialists say the lack of details, most of which are produced in Russia, is one of the main reasons for frequent failures of Su-30MKI.
The problem with units for this aircraft, Indians say, arises from the bureaucratic hurdles, made up by Russia's Rosoboronexport.
The process of application for details is long and may take months. Moreover, Rosoboronexport is not interested in supplying small quantities of details, while the Indian side often needs them.
Why not create a service center on the Indian territory, where a complete set of details for two or three planes would be kept and constantly replenished? It could be done as a joint venture. This was discussed during the recent visit of Indian journalists to Moscow.
But the question is, who is going to fund this service center. Even disassembled, two or three aircrafts cost tens millions of US dollars. New Delhi is in talks with Moscow about the opening of the assembly plant on the Indian territory. So they had not refused from Russian "Sukhoi" yet.
However, the refusal from the MTA is not the only instance when India, after long negotiations with Russia, chooses another supplier of aircrafts. Thus, in early 2016 India decided to buy French Rafale instead of the Russian MiG-35.
Time expires for the Russian monopoly
According to Mykola Gordiyenko, the head of naval projects of "Ukroboronprom," India allowed Ukraine to participate in defense programs, and "we have proposed new methods of service of the Soviet aircraft carrier "Admiral Gorshkov ", which are 50% cheaper than the Russian ones"
For India, which is known worldwide for its frugality, 50% cheaper is a considerable factor. According to the Defence News, Ukraine is making aggressive efforts to break Russia's monopoly on cooperation with India related to the repair and maintenance of military equipment.
"We are here to help India get rid of headaches, which it one cannot manage on its own. For almost ten years Russia has fiercely blocked our efforts. We have offered many solutions that can give new life to Soviet made weapons, because we are the original manufacturers of these equipment" - said "Ukroboronprom" chief adviser Petro Fedoruk.
And it is not only about this ship. Ukrainians have ventured on something more consistent.
Ukraine can help Indian military to repair gas turbines of their vessels. Mykolaiv "Zorya-Mashproekt" research and production complex has both the facilities and the qualified staff for this work. Russian experts also recognize this.
According to the Deputy Director of "Ukroboronprom" Arthur Heruvimov, India wants to organize together with Ukraine a joint military-technical commission for the service of Soviet weapons.
So far, these are only plans, but they give Moscow grounds for worries. The game is over for the Russian domination in this field.
Taras Kolisnyk for Yevropeyska Pravda
April 5, 2016