After a year of Ukraine war, forces looking to tide over delays in arms supply

Even as uncertainties remain, a major effort is under way to find alternative sources from the domestic industry as well as other countries, say senior defence officials

February 23, 2023 10:14 pm | Updated 10:24 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Pande. File

Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Pande. File | Photo Credit: PTI

As the war in Ukraine completes one year, apprehensions of delays in delivery of spares, components and ammunition have further heightened for the Indian armed forces. Official sources said deliveries of some spares and components which had been delayed from Ukraine could resume shortly. Even as uncertainties remain, a major effort is under way to find alternative sources from the domestic industry as well as other countries, senior defence officials noted. This is in addition to the payments issue which has delayed ‘milestone payments’.

“We expect some deliveries from Ukraine to resume very soon,” a senior official said. There are also delays from Russia, including some items which are not of systems they are directly employing in the war. We are looking for some clarity on it,” the official stated.

In contrast, in some cases Russia has delivered some systems including the S-400 air defence systems but ‘milestone payments’ have been delayed. 

The Navy and the Indian Air Force (IAF) have major platforms from both Russia and Ukraine, Navy engines and IAF the AN-32 transport aircraft from Ukraine.

While the stocks last for long due to additional sourcing done in the backdrop of the stand-off with China in eastern Ladakh, the concern is about timely deliveries for follow-on contracts placed as part of annual cycles. The shortages have been offset to some extent by reaching out to the domestic industry as well as scouting third countries which can meet the requirement. 

For instance, the Army is feeling the pinch in terms of spares and ammunition, particularly for its air defence and armoured fleet, which are largely of Russian origin, a fact recently acknowledged by Army Chief General Manoj Pande.

Ammunition from Bulgaria

The Army is in advanced stages of procuring 23mm ammunition for its air defence guns from alternative sources. Two big industrial houses have sourced the ammunition from Bulgaria and the quality assurance trials are under way and it will soon be procured, sources said.

Giving example of this import substitution enabled by the private industry, speaking on the sidelines of Aero India, Navy Chief Adm R. Hari Kumar gave the example of aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya which has been undergoing a long refit that has been delayed. 

“There are many parts which never came in time or not available as the original manufacturers themselves have closed the line. So we identified so many companies in India that could give us… in fact they gave us better quality,” he said, adding there are so many things that are being manufactured and exported to foreign manufacturers that were not known. There is lot of capability and over time we have been able to identify and then source from them, he added.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Russia has seen a series of sanctions imposed by the West as well as expelled from the global SWIFT payment system.

Gen. Pande said in January that sustenance of weapon systems and equipment, in terms of spares and ammunition, is one issue that the Army has addressed and they got a waiver and sanction to procure even if it is ex-imports for the next two to three years. “We have 40 such cases, including spares and ammunition, largely pertaining to air defence and tank fleet. We are looking at how the sustenance requirement is met,” he had stated.

Speaking at a seminar earlier this month, Russian Envoy in India Denis Alipov said the vostro accounts have been opened, the mechanism of rupee-rouble trade has been established and it is now a matter for the banks to use it while terming that many Indian banks are “over-cautious” for fear of any secondary sanctions from the U.S.

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