The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has highlighted India’s military’s heavy reliance on Russian equipment, which serves as the backbone of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Several reports have highlighted India’s reliance on Russia for military hardware, ranging from submarines to fighter planes and even a basic rifle.
Despite the fact that India’s defence imports from Russia have been steadily declining since 2014, 70% of its military still uses Russian equipment, some of which dates back to the Soviet era.
ThePrint examines the various systems used by the Indian Army, Navy, and Air Force, some of which are on the verge of being phased out and others which are brand new and will serve the forces for at least another two decades.
The armoured and mechanised systems, artillery, and small arms that the Indian Army imports from Russia can be divided into three categories.
Systems that are armoured and mechanised
With the exception of two regiments of the indigenous Arjun tank, almost all of India’s armoured and mechanised assets are Russian-made.
The T-90 and T-72 tanks make up India’s armoured columns. The T-90s are now produced in India under licence from the Russians, with no technology transfer. They’re an improved version of the T-72s, which are still in service with the Army. Following the standoff with China at the Line of Actual Control, both have been deployed in Ladakh.
India had previously imported T-55 tanks from Russia, which are now used in a pillbox configuration for targeted firing at the Line of Control. BMP armoured personnel carriers, which are also manufactured in India under licence, are used in India’s mechanised columns.
Missiles and artillery
While India is working to indigenize its artillery weapon requirements, the Army’s primary rocket systems are Russian, Smerch, and Grad. The M-46, a 130 mm, manually loaded and towed artillery field gun, is also used by India’s artillery.
The Konkurs Anti-Tank-Guided-Missiles (ATGM), Korent ATGM, OSA surface-to-air missile, Pechora surface-to-air missile, Strela surface-to-air missile, and the Igla are among the anti-tank and air defence systems used by the Army.
India also has the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missiles, the BrahMos, which are a joint venture between India and Russia.
Air defence guns and small arms
Russian systems rule the roost even when it comes to small arms.
The AK-47, a Russian product, is the most common rifle seen in the hands of soldiers at the LoC and in the hinterland for anti-terrorism operations. In addition, India and Russia have agreed to jointly manufacture AK-203 rifles in India.
Furthermore, the Army employs Russian-made Dragunov rifles, NSV machine guns, and OSV-96 anti-material rifles. The Shilka anti-aircraft gun is also on board.
Surface and submarines, as well as fighters, are among the Indian Navy’s imports. The Russian-made Kh-35 and P-20 anti-ship missiles, Klub anti-ship/land attack missiles, and APR–3E torpedo are among the Navy’s firepower.
The Kh-35 is a supersonic turbojet missile. Helicopters, surface ships, and coastal defence batteries can all launch it. Russia designed the APR–3E acoustic homecoming torpedo. The Navy also has a number of Russian-built surface ships, such as the Rajput-class destroyers, Talwar-class frigates, and Veer-class missile corvettes.
The Rajput-class destroyers are modified versions of the former Soviet Union’s Kashin-class destroyers. They were built in what is now Ukraine. The advanced Talwar-class frigates were launched in 2021 by Russia’s Yantar Shipyard. This was the third batch being developed for India.
This was the third batch destined for the Indian market.
India continues to operate eight Kilo-class submarines, which make up the majority of the country’s conventional submarine fleet. The Navy’s only fighters are 45 MiG-29Ks, which are flown from India’s sole aircraft carrier, the INS Vikramaditya, which is also Russian-made. The Russian Kamov anti-submarine warfare helicopters are also used by India.
For years, India has been leasing Russian nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) from Russia to train crews for its own fleet of ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). While the last Chakra was returned to India last year, India is expected to receive another by the end of 2025.
Indian Air Forces
While the IAF has expanded its capabilities to include French and Israeli systems, the majority of its weapons, including fighters and missiles, are Russian-made. The Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighters, which make up about 14 of the IAF’s 30 squadrons, are at the top of the list.
There are also Russian MiG-29UPG and MiG-21 fighter jets in service with the force. In addition to the IL-78 tankers, the IAF also operates the IL-76 heavy transport aircraft. Two IL-76 aircraft have also been converted into Airborne Warning And Control Systems by India.
Because the IAF uses several Russian aircraft, it also has a large number of Russian missiles, including the R-77, R-37, and R-73 air-to-air missiles, as well as the Kh-59, Kh-35, and Kh-31 air-to-surface missiles, as well as the KAB laser-guided bombs that are launched from the Su-30 MKI.
The IAF also purchased the S-400 Triumf air defence system, which began deliveries in December of last year. Russian Mi-17 utility helicopters, Mi-35 attack helicopters, and Mi-26 heavy-lift helicopters are also used by the force.