Procurement: From Russia With Defects


September 11, 2007: India is losing patience with Russian quality control. The latest problem is with the fire control system of five upgraded IL-38D maritime patrol aircraft. Recently, Russia announced that there would be delays in refurbishing and delivering an aircraft carrier to India. The Russians also wanted another $100 million, for a job that is already costing $1.5 billion. The Russians want more money for Su-30 aircraft, despite technical problems that take a long time to fix. And then there were the problems with the T-90 tank, especially the thermal viewers. The Indians could not help but notice that the Russians are now buying French thermal imagers for their own T-90s. Back in 1999, India bought laser guided 155mm "smart shells" from Russia, only to encounter flaws that greatly reduced the effectiveness of this wonder weapon.

The list of problems is long, and the Russians used to get off with the excuse that their stuff was cheap and did the job. But the Russians realized that approach was a loser, even before the Cold War ended. Now the Indians increasingly expect Western quality standards. Israel has become a major supplier of military equipment, and the Indians like the attention to quality and effectiveness the Israeli stuff incorporates.

The Russians believe that the Indians are too invested in Russian weapons and would not make a wholesale switch to other suppliers. Many Indians are not so sure, and Western arms manufacturers are showing up with greater frequency, with better deals. Maybe the Russians should start worrying.


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