The Indian Air Force (IAF) has declared that Russia cannot provide the necessary defense equipment it promised due to the conflict in Ukraine.

The Indian Air Force has confirmed that New Delhi is concerned that the Russian incursion into Ukraine in February 2022 may disrupt military equipment deliveries from India’s primary supplier.

For decades, India has relied upon Russia (and the Soviet Union before it) as its primary source of arms and defense supplies.

India has invested billions in arms imports, with Russia accounting for approximately $17.29 billion from 2001-2011 alone, as indicated by the SIPRI Arms Transfer Database. 

Arms Imports
(Source: Source: SIPRI Arms Transfer Database)

For the last twenty years, New Delhi has endeavored to reduce its reliance on Moscow and has instead turned its attention to France, America, and Israel.

Historically, India has relied heavily on Russian defense systems to keep its armed forces up-to date-and well-equipped with the latest technology. This close relationship between India and Russia has existed since the country’s independence in 1947.

The Indian Air Force has always considered Russia as the primary supplier of its aircraft fleet. Over time, the two countries have co-developed several advanced fighter jets, such as the Su-30MKI and MiG-29UPG, now central components of the IAF’s arsenal. The same is true for armored vehicles, air defense systems, and other types of military hardware – most of it coming from the Russian Federation.

To keep its armed forces up-to-date and well-equipped, India has also had long-term arrangements with Russia for co-developing and transferring military technology. This partnership was significantly impacted by the Ukrainian conflict in 2014, which disrupted supply lines due to economic sanctions imposed on Russia. Despite this, India continues to rely heavily on the Russian defense industry and actively pursues joint development projects. While there may be some delays due to the sanctions, India hopes its relationship with Russia will remain strong and profitable as they continue developing new weapons systems tailored specifically for the Indian Armed Forces.

However, on Tuesday, the website of a parliamentary committee released a statement by the IAF. A representative from the same organization informed the committee that, due to circumstances, a “major delivery” from Russia due this year would not happen.

The Russian Embassy in New Delhi stated they have no information to affirm the statement.

Rosoboronexport, the state agency responsible for weapon exports from Russia, did not give an immediate answer.

India supposedly purchased S-400 Triumf air defense systems in 2018 for a total cost of $5.4 billion. So far, three of the systems have been shipped, and two more are expected to arrive.

For now, Indian businesses are being motivated to manufacture more domestically with international entities.

In recent years, India has been taking steps towards reducing its reliance on Russian military equipment and sourcing components from alternative partners. The Government of India now uses a ‘Make in India’ approach to developing weapons systems and other military hardware. This strategy encourages Indian businesses to manufacture more domestically with the help of international partnerships.

India’s defense procurement policy mandates that at least 40% of the country’s defense production must be done domestically, and this percentage is expected to increase over time. These initiatives have seen an influx of new investments in defense manufacturing companies, setting the stage for a domestic-led manufacturing revolution.

The Indian Air Force’s Best Fighter Jet: The Russian SU-30MKI

Read Next: The Indian Air Force’s Best Fighter Jet: The Russian SU-30MKI

The Indian Government has also been actively pursuing defense cooperation agreements with other nations, such as Israel and the United States, to diversify its military hardware sources and increase the overall quality of components available for production. For example, India recently signed a $3 billion deal with the United States for 24 multi-role MH-60R Seahawk helicopters as part of this strategy. It is expected that more such deals will be on their way shortly as India continues to broaden its defense supply chain network.

“The delivery of the helicopters … comes at a time when the Indian Ocean Region is witnessing increasing security threats due to the proliferation of submarines,” the Indian Navy says. 

“The helicopters can be effectively employed for offensive and defensive roles including Anti-Submarine Warfare, Anti-Ship Strike, Low-Intensity Maritime Operations, Search and Rescue, over the horizon Network Centric Operations and Electronic Warfare.”

The Indian Air Force also revealed to the parliamentary committee that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine substantially impacted its supplies. As a result, the expected capital expenditure on modernization for the financial year ending on 31st March 2024 was reduced by nearly one-third compared to the preceding fiscal year.

In February, the national budget presented an 853 billion rupee ($10.38 billion) capital expenditure projection from the air force, which was subsequently reduced to 588 billion rupees ($7.15 billion).

For decades, Russia has enjoyed exclusive access to supplying arms equipment to India’s Armed Forces. However, times are changing as India looks to develop its military capabilities and find alternate partners for sourcing components for its defense infrastructure. With a focus on domestic manufacturing and expanding its reach to other international partners, India is creating an ecosystem that will help make it self-sufficient in meeting its military needs.

The shift away from relying on Russian military equipment and components will have a significant impact on the Russian economy, as well as its relationship with India. In addition, India’s recent efforts to diversify its supply chain network and manufacture more domestically have presented an alternate route for Indian Armed Forces to meet their requirements. This could lead to reduced orders for Russia in the future, making it difficult for them to sustain its current economic growth. For now, though, India appears committed to trying to honor existing contracts with Russia. However, this commitment may not be enough, given the imperative of self-reliance in defense manufacturing.