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India boosts arms output, fearing Russian shortfall

NEW DELHI (AP) – India yesterday 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 per cent of its defence equipment, and the war in Ukraine has added to doubts about future supplies.

Defence 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 defence manufacturing hub,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said yesterday while releasing a list of military equipment that will be produced domestically and no longer imported.

The ministry’s website said military orders worth INR2,100 billion (USD28 billion) are likely to be placed with domestic state-run and private defence manufacturers in the next five years.

Former Lieutenant General DS 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.

“The requirements of the Russian military itself, with the kind of losses that it is suffering, may mean some of those spares that we need will probably get diverted,” said Hooda, a retired Indian army general.

To meet its short-term requirements India may consider purchases from former Soviet republics and Warsaw pact countries, the ministry officials said.

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

A Russian technician prepares for the take-off of the MIG 29 M2 at the Yelahanka Air Force Station in Bangalore. PHOTO: AP