India to boost arms output to offset potential shortfall from Russia

New Delhi: India on Thursday said it would ramp up its production of military equipment, including helicopters, tank engines, missiles, and airborne early warning systems, to offset any potential shortfall from its main supplier Russia.

India depends on Russia for nearly 60 percent of its defense equipment, and the war in Ukraine has added to doubts about future supplies.

Defense Ministry officials say India, with the world’s second-largest army, fourth-largest air force, and seventh-largest navy, can’t sustain itself through imports.

“Our objective is to develop India as a defense manufacturing hub,” Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said Thursday while releasing a list of military equipment that will be produced domestically and no longer imported.

The ministry’s website said military orders worth $28 billion are likely to be placed with domestic state-run and private defense manufacturers in the next five years. To meet its short-term requirements India may consider purchases from former Soviet republics and Warsaw pact countries, the ministry officials said.

Former Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda said that during a visit to India last year by Russian President Vladimir Putin the two sides decided to shift some manufacturing to India to meet its requirements. Imports of helicopters, corvettes, tank engines, missiles, and airborne early warning systems will eventually be halted.

Bulgaria, Poland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine could help India with spare supplies for Russian fighter aircraft Sukhois and MiG-29s and with upgrading tanks and armored vehicles as they have similar Soviet-origin platforms and spares, said a ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

India’s Defense Ministry has so far identified a “positive indigenization list” of more than 300 items with a timeline for banning imports to help local manufacturers meet the requirements of the armed forces in the coming years.

India’s air force has more than 410 Soviet and Russian fighters with a mix of imported and license-built platforms, including Su30s, MiG-21s, and MiG 29s. All require Russian spares and components. India also has Russian submarines, tanks, helicopters, submarines, frigates, and missiles.

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