Checkpoint Asia

$14.5 Billion in Weapons India Has on Order From Russia Could Be Just the Start

For one thing its $8 billion order for 36 French Rafale fighters doesn't make sense when China could have 24 Su-35s for $2.5 billion

But this is precisely the sum India allotted for buying Russian-made weapons. It is a lot. As big defense sales (for Russia) honcho Dmitry Shugaev characterized  (in Russian) this portfolio: it is a breakthrough. As it is known well, India was under non-stop pressure by the United States trying to block India’s purchase of S-400 systems. Something tells me, however, judging by the scale of this portfolio that new nuclear powered subs and, ahem, future 5th generation fighters are going to be the part of this whole deal. 

One has to keep in mind that India’s contract for French Rafale attracted attention of some serious forces inside India. 

New Delhi: Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), headed by Congress’ Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, has picked up the Rafale jet purchase and the related CAG audit report among 107 subjects shortlisted for scrutiny. Other controversial subjects chosen by the PAC for its scrutiny include the Goods & Services Tax (GST) and its tax collection network GSTN. 

Rafale is an excellent fighter but the deal between France and India whose value is estimated at 7.8 billion Euros was for….36 fighters. This would make Rafale’s cost, ahem, roughly 217 million euros a pop, or $240 million a plane. Of course, there were all kinds of caveats, including France investing 50%  of a contract into India’s related sectors. The problem with all this is that even if to reduce Rafale’s cost by 50%, one gets a price tag of $240/2=120 million a fighter. Rafale is a great aircraft, but it is not that great as to have a price tag of $120 millions. For “fly away cost” Rafale’s in 2013 went for around 79 million Euros, or $87 million. Still very high but nowhere near $120 mils. Enter those nasty Russkies. 

Rumor has it that SU-35, which is a monster of a fighter-plane, goes on the market for roughly $65 millions as a base price. Russian-Chinese contract for the regiment (24 planes) of SU-35S is valued at $2 Billion, which makes the cost per single SU-35S (Russian, full capability, version) at around $83 million–still less than Rafale under the most favorable conditions. The math is really simple here. I am not going to go into fanboys’ comparison of Rafale and SU-35S, both are superb fighter planes, with Sukhoi having one obvious edge over French fighter–super-maneuverability. But then again, it holds this edge over any aircraft in the world. And, of course, now a juicy SU-57 is towering behind SU-35S and India finds herself in a conundrum. Truth is, Indians love Russian-made weapons. They always did, since good ol’ Soviet times and, facing now a true revolution in military affairs, (needless to say India knows this through Joint Russian-Indian Venture Brahmos really well), India wants those technologies. If Turkey can have them (some of them), India for sure, having a long record of friendly relations with USSR/Russia, have more than a fair shot at upgrading herself to cutting edge weapon systems. After all, India is a genuine candidate for crossing into the hypersonic paradigm, with her Brahmos, sometime next decade. 

What else was discussed with Indian side in terms of weapons I don’t know and cannot know but the sum of announced portfolio is really gigantic and we all may state pretty confidently that India does it not just for obvious geopolitical considerations towards China and Pakistan, but also having some thoughts about the United States which becomes increasingly unpredictable and, certainly, views Indian Ocean SLOCs, or, rather, their interdiction, as crucial in curtailing China’s BRI project. India, meanwhile, wants to view Indian Ocean as India’s Lake and that requires even larger investment into the modern navy. Enter those damn Russkies again, wink, wink, who know that India needs ships and, most importantly, subs. And all that, as you may have guessed it already, requires all those enablers, those sensors, combat management systems and other pretty expensive things going under C4ISR moniker.  And then, of course, there are all kinds of joint ventures possible for joint manufacturing of… a lot. So, let’s put it this way, Prime Minister Modi had a very fruitful visit to Moscow. 

Source: Reminiscence of the Future