India’s coastal patrol capabilities are being severely compromised by Russia’s refusal to be part of a deal that would have Israeli firms upgrading the Indian Navy’s Russian-built Tupolev Tu-142 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft.
India originally turned to Russia for upgrade work to be done on the eight aircraft, but balked at the $888 million price tag placed on the work earlier this year by Rosoboronexport, Russia’s arms export agency.
The Navy then approached Israel Aircraft Industries, Lod, and Elbit Systems, Haifa, to upgrade the Tu-42s in Israel with multimission avionics and electronic warfare systems.
An Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) official said Russia’s consent is mandatory because the aircraft would be going to a third country for the upgrade work. The official said that because Russia will not enter into a tripartite agreement with India and Israel, the upgrades will not be done by the Israeli firms.
Among the roadblocks to a deal were royalty payments to Russia and Moscow’s insistence that Russian Sea Dragon electronic warfare systems be part of the upgrade plans, MoD and Navy officials said.
A Navy official said the service now plans to ask the government to scrap the upgrade program and instead launch a global tender to replace the eight aircraft.
Tupolev officials in Moscow were not available for comment by press time.
India in 2001 started talks to purchase an unspecified number of P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft from the United States, but no deal has been made.
Russia finally agreed to enter into a similar agreement when India wanted the Israeli Phalcon radar installed on three Russian-built Il-76 aircraft for the Indian Air Force’s airborne warning and control system aircraft program. That deal was struck early this year by the outgoing National Democratic Alliance government after nearly a year of negotiations and debate over royalties to be paid by Israel to Russia for allowing the latter’s platforms to be upgraded in a third country, the Indian Defence Ministry official said. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
India’s efforts to lease four Tu-22 bombers and buy two to four Il-38 maritime surveillance aircraft from Russia also are stalled in negotiations.
The Navy has urgently searched for maritime surveillance aircraft after it lost two of its five Il-38 aircraft in an accident in October 2002.
The current maritime surveillance fleet includes the eight Tu-142s and the three Il-38s. “This is inadequate to meet the maritime surveillance needs of the country,” the Navy official said.
The Tu-142 is a nuclear-capable bomber that can fly from Mumbai to Johannesburg, South Africa, and back without refueling and is the key to the Navy’s ASW operations, said a senior Indian Navy aviation official.