Russian fighter jets worse than those of USA and Europe?

The failure of the deal to sell Russian IL-78 fuel tankers to India once again raised the issue of the competitive ability decrease of Russian arms and military technique on the world market. Russia’s "Оboronka" (the defense industry) is facing yet harder problems in handling export contracts and servicing clients of earlier transactions. “It is impossible to improve the situation”, our expert concludes.

According to Russian and foreign media sources, India refused to buy Russian Il-78 fuel tanker aircraft. Indian officials motivated this decision with the non-conformity of planes to the customer’s requisitions. The spare parts supply and the after-sales service were also mentioned.

“After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia alternated its approach to the handling of the defense business. Nowadays we are facing problems with spare parts, the support of manufacturers and the delays conditioned by the centralized structure of their defense corporations”, Fali Homi Major, the Commander-in-Chief of Indian Air Force told RIA Novosti. Instead of Russian planes India is likely to buy Airbus A330 MRTT manufactured by the European company EADS.

This is not the first juicy scandal connected with Russia’s defense exports. “The most well-known case is the scandal with Algeria when they refused to take the already procured MiG aircraft and sent them back to us. There are plenty of scandals with India in relation to various types of arms. It concerns naval weapons in the first place”, said Mr. Alexander Khramchihin of the Institute of Political and Defense Analysis in an interview to

Recollecting the year 2007 with the outbreak of scandal with 15 MiG-29CMT fighters shipped to Algeria . It appeared that the jet fighters, which were sold as brand new, contained “second-hand” parts. According to some information, the units from the planes with several hundreds of flight hours were used when assembling those aircraft.

One can recollect habitual claims from India which is one of our key partners in the field of defense cooperation. We remind the endless complaints with The Gorshkov aircraft carrier which was designed for India. The budget for its refurbishment was mounting endlessly which enormously irritated our client. Perplexity was also connected with the problems in the modernization of the ship.

Technical problems haunted Russia in the transfer of frigates, which India ordered from Russia . Air defense missile systems stubbornly failed to hit air targets. In many scandal situations (e.g. in the case of airplanes returned by Algeria) some observers incriminate the international backroom deal.

However, politically motivated relations with India could only take place in times of the Cold War, but definitely not today. “Earlier India oriented itself to Russia during the Cold War, and there were truly political factors there”, says A.Khramchihin.

“Today India can buy weapons from whoever it wants to. The market also became more abundant than before. In his words everything in this sphere is explained by the quality including India’s denial. This is the signal to us that we produce low-quality weapons”, he affirms.

Formerly, competitive advantage of the Soviet military technique was in its low price (sometimes even dumping), its simplicity and reliability. However, the Russian military hardware, still being simple, started losing its former reliability. Nevertheless, the prices on it were growing against all odds.

The answer is in the high inflation rise of the defense sphere surpassing the average price growth in the industry as well as the degradation of the military-industrial complex. Whereas the amount of the state defense contracts and foreign contracts is growing, the national defense industry still fails to regain its capability to tackle the large-scale production of military equipment.

“Old factories which produced hardware in sufficient quantities and quality in the course of many years are not coping with the assignment of today”, said Mr. Ruslan Pukhov, of the Center of Strategy and Technology Analysis told

The staff deficit still persists – “money is there but people are not”. ”The situation is impossible to amend”, grumbles A.Kramchihin.

If the situation does not change (according to military experts it will be next to impossible to reverse it) Russia will be losing its share in the market of arms and military equipment. These tendencies have already started to take shape. Thus. according to studies of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and Bonn International Converse Center (BICC) Russia is reducing its share on the world arms market.

The turnover on the world arms market in 2004-2008 has increased by 21 percent as compared to previous five-year period (1999-2003). At that time the increase in sales of Russian arms was only 14 percent. The figures testify that our share in the arms market started to curtail.

Sergey Malinin.

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov