CHENNAI: The proposed Defence Industrial Corridor in Tamil Nadu will produce Russian spares by entering into a joint venture between Russian firms and Indian vendors, which will cut down cost by 400 per cent to 2,000 per cent, said Rear Admiral and Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Air Material) V M Doss.
This comes as Russia signed four memoranda of understanding and 20 agreements with India for production of critical spares under licence over the years during the India-Russia Military Industry Conference, where a big Russian delegation led by Vladimir Drozzhov, Deputy Director of Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation of Russia, held discussions with Indian Defence Ministry as well as armed forces officials.
The proposed defence industrial corridor, which will include Chennai, Coimbatore, Tiruchy, Hosur and Salem, will manufacture the spares after tie-up with Russian companies.
“We fully support Make in India and India is our strategic partner. You give us orders and we will help,” Drozzhov said to a query by Express that India is looking West for arming its forces. He said ties between India and Russia cannot be tilted by Western powers.
Interestingly, Russians will tie up with Indian vendors to manufacture supplies for Sukhoi aircraft, Mi-17 helicopter, MiG-29 and T90 tanks. The Indian Navy is facing acute maintenance problems with the 45 Russian-made MiG-29K aircraft, the sole fighters on aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya as it did not enter into a contract for automatic maintenance of the aircraft with the Russians while purchasing the MiG-29K in 2004 and 2010 for $2.2 billion.
As the Russians along with Air Force and Indian Navy personnel were huddled in discussion on technology transfer, Doss said technology transfer will play a key role. Interestingly, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the sole supplier of Russian aircraft spares, is organising business-to-business discussions between Indian industry partners and Russian original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to understand the modalities of formation of joint venture. A total of 60 vendors participated in the programme, an HAL official told Express.
Besides the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Navy also has a large stockpile of Russian equipment, including hulls, electrical systems, weapons and sensors. These equipment require effective after sales support, which is governed by timely availability of spares, regular repairs of defective blocks and timely availability of specialists when required by the Indian Navy.
The after sales support has been plagued by certain challenges as the lead time for provisioning of spares is long and sometimes stretching beyond 24 to 30 months. The effectiveness of repairs is hampered due to lack of documentation and supportability as a large number of parts are depleting or becoming obsolete.
To provide effective repair support module, the involvement of Indian industry is extremely critical, be it for licence manufacturing of spares or undertaking regular spares in India or setting up repair centres with OEM specialists.
To identify Indian partners, expression of interest was issued and list of Indian enterprises with their capabilities were engaged. The Ministry of Defence has taken path-breaking initiatives in terms of ease of doing verticals.
The issues for discussion include the firming up the areas of interest for collaboration, broad framework of partnership when preliminary discussions have been agreed, including partnership with regard to Transfer of Technology (ToT). It is also important for both the industry representatives to discuss timeline for formation of a partnership and deliberating nuances for quality control.
A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report in December 2015 has highlighted that Su-30MKI aircraft suffers from poor serviceability, which is just around 55 per cent against the prescribed norm of 75 per cent.
Interestingly, a conference was also held for land systems such as Russian tanks T-72 and T-90. Indian industry representatives wanted a commitment for the provision of ToT for upgrades. A representative from Avadi’s Heavy Vehicles Factory said the transfer of technology is only partially available for the T-90.
Russian Rosoboronexport is the sole contractor for spares for a variety of Russian defence platforms and weapons in use by the Indian defence forces.