| Updated at: 1343 PST, Thursday, October 07, 2010|
NEW DELHI: Russia may offer India strategic defence technologies to retain dominant position in the Indian crowded weapons market, said a Russian expert.
“Growing international competition for the Indian defence market will push Russia to expand its cooperation with India into new sectors where it has no rivals, such as strategic weapons and technologies,” said Konstantin Makienko of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) ahead of the 10th session of the India-Russia intergovernmental commission on military-technical cooperation.
The IGC commission will meet in New Delhi on October 7 under co-chair of Defence Minister A. K. Antony and his Russian counterpart, Anatoly Serdyukov.
The Russian expert suggested that the two countries could diversify their defence ties into nuclear submarine technologies despite continuing international restrictions against India.
“India's de-facto joining of the nuclear club makes such restrictions rather pointless.”
In fact, Russia is already helping India acquire nuclear submarine capability. Next March, Russia will hand over an Akula-class attack submarine, Nerpa, to India on a 10-year lease.
Its design has been largely incorporated in India's first indigenously built nuclear submarine, INS Arihant, launched last year.
Cooperation in strategic weapons will be in line with Russia's long-time policy of offering India advanced defence technologies.
“Russia is interested in strengthening India's defence potential without any limitations,” said Mr. Makienko, adding Russia was not prepared to supply China high-end weapons systems that India received.
The fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), which India will build jointly with Russia, is one example of this policy.
“The FGFA programme will enable India to join the exclusive club of nations who have such weapon systems,” he said. “It will give India an overkill capability over China, not to mention Pakistan.”
The FGFA project marks a further shift in Indo-Russian defence ties from a buyer-seller relationship to joint design and construction of new weapon system.
Indian Air Force Chief PV Naik said that fifty 50 percent of the equipment of his force had become obsolete and the country would eventually spend over $25 billion to induct 250 advanced stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), on way to being co-developed with Russia, in what will be the country’s biggest-ever defence project, to modernize the force.
With the new planned inductions in the pipeline, IAF’s obsolescence rate will come down to 20% by 2014-15 from the current 50% or so. “But this does not mean that we are not fully capable of defending the country from any air or space threat at the moment...We are,’’ said ACM Naik. With a potent mix of super-manoeuvrability and supersonic cruising ability, ong-range strike and high-endurance air defence capabilities, each FGFA will cost upwards of approximately $100 million.
This will be in addition to the huge investment to be made in co-developing FGFA with cash-strapped Russia, as also the huge infrastructure required basing, operating and maintaining such jets in India. “We are looking to induct 200 to 250 FGFA in phases from 2017 onwards,’’ confirmed IAF chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik on Monday. New Delhi and Moscow are looking to ink the FGFA preliminary design contract when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev comes visiting here in December.
Under intense negotiations for the last four-five years, the FGFA project will also figure in the talks between defence minister A K Antony and his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov on October 8. Though the Indian FGFA will be based on the Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA, which flew for the first time this January at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur facility in Siberia, it will be built to IAF’s specifications. It’s already being touted as superior to the American F/A-22 `Raptor’, the world’s only operational FGFA as of now.
ACM Naik said the 30-tonne FGFA will be a “swing-role fighter, with very advanced avionics, stealth to increase survivability, enhanced lethality, 360 degree situational awareness, smart weapons, data-links, high-end mission computers’’ and the like. Along with 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, which India plans to acquire in a $10.4 billion project, 270 Sukhoi-30MKIs contracted from Russia for around $12 billion and 120 indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, the FGFA will be the mainstay of India’s air combat fleet for the foreseeable future.
Even as the Army revises its war doctrine to factor in the worst-case scenario of a simultaneous two-front war with Pakistan and China, is IAF also preparing for the same.
“Our modernisation plans are based on the four pillars of `see, reach, hit and protect’...We prepare for a multi-faceted, multi-dimensional, multi-front war,’’ said ACM Naik.
“But our approach is capability-based, not adversary-specific. Our modernisation drive is in tune with our nation’s aspirations,’’ he said, adding that India’s strategic interests stretched “from Hormuz Strait to Malacca Strait and beyond’’.
To a volley of questions on China and Pakistan, IAF chief said, “All neighbours, from the smallest to the largest, have to be watched with caution...Their capabilities have to be assessed. Anything that can upset the growth of our nation is a matter of concern.’’