India and Russia inked two pacts for long-term maintenance support for Sukhoi-30MKI jets, which are the latest and most potent fighters in the IAF combat fleet but have suffered from poor serviceability, engine problems and lack of spares over the years.
The pacts, inked in the presence of finance-cum-defence minister Arun Jaitley and Russian industry and trade minister Denis Manturov during a bilateral military industrial conference, will help bolster the operational availability of the Sukhois deployed on both the western and eastern fronts with Pakistan and China.
IAF has so far inducted 240 Sukhoi-30MKIs of the 272 contracted from Russia at a cost of over $12 billion, with the bulk of them being “licensed produced” by defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL).
But apart from the serviceability of the Sukhoi fleet, which has improved from the earlier 52% to over 60% now, IAF has also lost seven of the fighters in crashes till now. The last Sukhoi crash took place near the Utarlai airbase in Barmer area of Rajasthan.
As per the new pacts, Russian United Aircraft Corporation and United Engine Corporation will supply HAL with spares, engines and technical assistance for five years to begin with. In effect, said officials, the process of getting spares for the Sukhois will now be speeded up to “just a few weeks”, instead of the existing waiting period of one to two years.
Listing out the several initiatives taken by the government to ease the entry of the private sector in the defence production sector, which includes 49% FDI without any approval, the ‘Make in India’ policy is not only aimed at meeting domestic requirements, but can also be used to become part of the global supply chain.
Russian companies may identify some of the items for which they can set up joint ventures with Indian companies and those items can be supplied across the world by such joint ventures.