Benaulim (Goa): India today inked a Rs. 39,000-crore (over $5-billion) ‘crown jewel’ deal with Russia for the S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile that will bring the air space of both its nuclear neighbours Pakistan and China within its strike range. This was apart from the $4-billion deal signed for four new Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates.
The deal with Russia comes at a time when India has moved closer to the U.S. with which it has inked over $17-billion worth of defence deals over the last decade. During this period, Washington has emerged as the largest arms supplier to New Delhi, overtaking the traditional leader Moscow. The new arms trade between India and U.S. has led Russia to explore military ties with and arms supplies to Pakistan, including a recent joint army exercise that has riled long-term friend India
The two key defence agreements between the “special and privileged strategic partners” took place during the summit meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin here ahead of the BRICS meet in Goa.
The two sides also inked the shareholding agreement for setting up of a joint venture in India for joint manufacturing of the 200 Kamov Ka-226T light utility military helicopters, which was among the total 17 agreements that were concluded in the defence, nuclear, space, oil and gas, and infrastructure sectors.
“The agreements on manufacturing of Kamov 226T helicopters; constructions of frigates; and acquisition and building of other defence platforms are in synergy with India’s technology and security priorities. They also help us achieve the objectives of ‘Make in India‘. We have also agreed to work on an annual military industrial conference that will allow stakeholders on both sides to institute and push collaboration,” Modi told a joint press conference after the summit meet.
“These projects are new chapters in a long history of strong and diverse defence partnership that both sides can take much pride in.”
Just minutes before the joint media interaction, India and Russia had dedicated the Kudankulum-2 nuclear power plant and laid the foundation concrete of Kudankulum-3 and -4. Modi said these saw the tangible results of India-Russia cooperation in the field of civil nuclear energy.
“And, with proposed construction of another eight reactors, our wide-ranging cooperation in nuclear energy is set to bring rich dividends for both of us. It also fits in with our needs of energy security, access to high technology and greater localisation and manufacturing in India.”
A joint statement noted “with satisfaction” achievements in the field of joint design, development and production of high-technology military equipment and in this context, positively evaluated the establishment of the joint venture for production of Ka-226T helicopters in India.
Both sides welcomed plans to hold the Indo-Russian military industrial conference later in 2016 and create bilateral Science and Technology Committee. The Indo-Russian Military industrial Conference will address military equipment related issues including spares, repair and maintenance of Russian-supplied equipment and co-production.
Private players too would be invited to participate under ‘Make in India’ initiative. The bilateral Science and Technology Committee would focus on matters relating to R&D collaboration in such high-tech areas as IT, communication, cyber security, medical engineering, outer space cooperation, and remote sensing, the joint statement said.
The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to pursue the immense potential to cooperate in outer space with a view to advance socially useful applications and scientific knowledge. They welcomed signing of a MoU for setting up and utilising ground stations in each other’s territories to enhance the usefulness of their respective navigation satellite constellations of GLONASS and NavIC.
They emphasized that the space agencies of India and Russia will engage more actively on space technology applications, launch vehicle, satellite navigation, space science and planetary exploration.
They also confirmed their commitment to elaborate within the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the UN Committee on Space a consolidated approach to the preparation of the set of guidelines for the long-term sustainability of outer space activities and regulatory provisions on safety of space operations, as the most important component of the said document.
Missiles and Frigates Deals
Under the Inter-Governmental Agreement signed between Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Director Alexander Fomin and India’s Ambassador to Russia Pankaj Saran, India’s air force will get five new-generation S-400 missiles that can destroy incoming hostile aircraft, stealth fighters, missiles and drones at ranges up to 400 km. If the cost negotiations are completed in about a year and the commercial deal signed for Triumf missiles, it could get delivered beginning 2020.
The Triumf system has three kinds of missiles with different capabilities that can fly at supersonic and hypersonic speeds to intercept all kinds of targets at ranges from 120 km to 400 km. Russian experts even proclaim that the S-400 surface-to-air missile system can “radar lock and shoot down” stealth fifth-generation fighters like the American F-35 jets.
Each S-400 system, having eight launchers, a control centre, radar and 16 missiles as reloads can simultaneously engage 36 targets and hit targets at a speed of 17,000 km an hour, faster an any aircraft in the world.
In 2015, China had sealed a $3-billion deal with Russia for procuring six S-400 batteries. China is slated to get deliveries of the S-400 batteries, designated as ‘SA-21‘ Growler by NATO and rivals the anti-ballistic missile capabilities of the US Patriot PAC-3 system, from 2017.
The Inter-Governmental Agreement to purchase/construct four additional Admiral Grigorovich-class 1135.6 frigates (also known as Krivak-class) though partnership between Russian and Indian shipyard was negotiated in September this year during a high-level India-Russia Military Technical Cooperation Working Group when a techno-commercial proposal” was submitted by the Russian side.
The $4-billion deal for the four multi-purpose 4,000-tonne frigates, to be packed with sensors and weapons including the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, involved building of two of the Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates in Russia, just like the previous six built there, while the rest two would be constructed in India under a technology transfer.
The first three Talwar-class frigates were inducted from Russia between 2003 and 2004, while the last three Teg-class were inducted between 2011 and 2013 for which contract was signed in 2006 for $1.15 billion. The Teg-class frigates, which have an operating range of 4,500 nautical miles, can handle threats in all three dimensions – air, surface and underwater. But a major problem with the new upgraded Teg or Admiral Grigorovich-class frigates on offer is that the warships – lying half-constructed at the Yantar Shipyard in Russia due to a cash-crunch – will need Zorya gas-turbine engines from Ukraine.
India, of course, has begun to construct its own stealth warships, having inducted three 6,100-tonne Shivalik-class frigates. Another Rs 50,000 crore contract for construction of the seven ‘Project-17A‘ stealth frigates – four at Mazagon Docks at Mumbai and three in GRSE at Kolkata – was inked in February 2015.
The Indian Navy currently has around 130 warships as well as 235 aircraft and helicopters. Moreover, the seven P-17A frigates are among the 39 warships and six Scorpene submarines under construction in Indian shipyards for over Rs.300,000 crore.
But India is now eyeing the Russian frigates since it plans a 212-warship Navy by 2027 to ensure effective safeguarding of its huge geo-strategic interests from Persian Gulf to Malacca Strait and beyond.
In pursuance of their Inter-Governmental Agreement inked in December 2015 in Moscow when Modi met Putin, the two sides also signed the shareholder agreement for establishing a Joint Venture to manufacture Ka-226T helicopter in India. The agreement was inked between Russia’s Rosoboronexport Director General Anatoly Isaykin and Russian Helicopters Chief Executive Officer Alexander Mikheev on one side and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Chairman and Managing Director T. Suvarna Raju. The Ka-226T deal will be worth $1 billion.
HAL is expected to build the Ka-226T at its Tumkuru helicopter division plant, for which Modi had laid the foundation stone in January this year. Currently, HAL has just one helicopter manufacturing facility in Bengaluru. The Tumkuru facility, about 100 km from Bengaluru in Karnataka, will be the second helicopter manufacturing unit that will come up at a cost of Rs. 5,000 crore .
The facility is expected to produce around 600 helicopters over the next 15 years, beginning its production in another two years in 2018. The facility would primarily manufacture the Russian-origin Kamov Ka-226T light utility helicopter.
During the summit meeting in Goa between Modi and Putin, a MoU was signed between JSC United Shipbuilding Corporation and the Council for Economic Cooperation of Andhra Pradesh on studying perspectives for cooperation in shipbuilding, implementation of infrastructure projects, transfer of technologies and training foreign specialists. The MoU was inked between United Shipbuilding Corporation President Alexei Rakhmanov and Andhra Pradesh Economic Development Board Chief Executive Officer J. Krishna Kishore.