Senior military officers said that seeable of the Russian offensive, ongoing projects to upgrade aircraft and provide missiles would be interminably delayed, if not eventually terminated. Ukraine’s invasion by Russia will damagingly impact several of India’s ongoing programs that would, within the medium term, compromise its prospective operational efficiency.
These projects include upgrading the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) fleet of Antonov An32 ‘Cline’ transport aircraft and supplying critical R-27 air-to-air missiles for its multi-role Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters. These also involve providing engines for four Indian Navy missile frigates, amongst other assorted bilateral military contracts under review and negotiation because of the Russian offensive. These ongoing projects would be interminably delayed, if not eventually terminated, because the invasion’s outcome and Ukraine’s future contours remained nebulous.
Declining to be identified, they said the apparent priority for Ukraine’s large defence industry, once a major component of the Soviet Union’s military complex would be to arm itself, instead of luxuriating in executing overseas orders. The biggest adverse fallout for India from the Russian attack on Ukraine centres on the up-gradation of around 60 IAF twin-engine An-32s, needed to ferry material, cargo and personnel to Ladakh.
These transports were needed to sustain the Indian Army’s continuing deployment against China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) since May 2020, along the mutually disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC). Like most Indian defence contracts, the one with Ukraine for the An-32 retrofit too had an agonizing history. In 2008, the ministry of defence (MoD) had signed a $400 million contract with Ukraine to upgrade the IAF’s 105-strong An-32 fleet by overhauling the transports Ivchenko AI-20 turboprop engines and airframes and fitting the platforms with advanced avionics, navigation, and communications equipment.
Thereafter, in January 2019, India and Ukraine agreed to resume the An-32 retrofit and therefore the former began transferring the upgrade kits to the BRD for installation onto the platforms. Kyiv also assured the MoD and therefore the IAF that it’d complete the upgrade at the previously agreed price of $3.8 million per aircraft. Work on the upgrade resumed some months later but remains aloof from complete. However, the project was deemed successful because the An-32s ably demonstrated their agility in operating from rudimentary advanced landing strips in mountainous terrain within the Ladakh region altogether forms of weather.
Ukraine had 1,840 defence and related enterprises and research centres, with advanced expertise in missile and shipbuilding at the time when the country declared independence in 1991. It employed nearly three million scientists, technicians, engineers and skilled workers. But it had not been a cohesive industry, with fragments of it distributed across Russia and other portions of the previous Soviet Republic. Furthermore, the shortage of legislation led to illegal trafficking of Ukrainian material till eventually, in 1996 the state assumed control of the country’s entire defence industry under the overarching banner of Ukroboronprom. It then began concentrating on niche areas like transport aircraft, diverse missile systems, and engines which, regrettably, were almost absolute to become unavailable to India at a time when it needed them the foremost.