Another successful year

Konstantin Makienko
India continues to be the largest importer of Russian arms

Despite the loss of the Libyan and Iranian markets and the suspension of military supplies to war-town Syria, Russian official reports claim a continuing nominal growth in arms deliveries and contracts. According to the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, Russia exported $15.2 billion’s worth of armament last year and landed new contracts for a total sum of $15 billion. To put these figures in perspective, 2011 deliveries amounted to $13.2 billion and the total value of arms export contracts concluded during that year is estimated to have stood at $8-8.5 billion. As in previous years, most of the 2012 deliveries and (presumably) newly signed contracts were related to military aircraft, associated equipment and weaponry.

Deliveries

Aviation equipment accounted for 37% of all Russian arms exports in 2012. India appears to have remained Russia’s largest customer for such assets since 2005. Irkut Corporation has yet to release its performance results for 2012 but we may safely assume that it delivered at least 30 to 35 assembled airframes and knock-down kits of the Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jet variety to the Indian Air Force and to the license manufacturer HAL. Algeria received its second and final batch of eight Su-30MKI (A) fighters under the 2010 contract for 16 of the type; the first eight airframes had been delivered in 2011.

Sukhoi last year completed Su-30MK2 deliveries under the 2010 contracts with Vietnam and Uganda. The first four of Vietnam’s 12 fighters had been delivered in 2011, the same year that Uganda received the first four of its six aircraft on order.

In total, Sukhoi delivered 10 Su-30MK2 airplanes last year and Irkut presumably made at least 38 deliveries of Su-30MKI/MKI (A) fighters and knock-down kits. Combined deliveries of Su-30 family fighters thus amounted to at least 48 airframes.

MiG-29 deliveries continued as well. Six MiG-29B/SE fighters were shipped to Myanmar, completing the 2009 contract worth €410 million for 10 MiG-29B, six MiG-29SE, and four MiG-29UB aircraft. Myanmar had received its first 14 airframes back in 2011. In a separate development, RSK MiG began deliveries to India under the 2010 contract worth $1.5 billion for 29 MiG-29K carrier-borne fighters. The contract is an addendum to the original 2004 accord under which Russia undertook to develop the MiG-29K modification and supply 16 such fighters for the Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. Three to four of the type were reportedly delivered in 2012.

Work continued to upgrade Indian Air Force MiG-29s to MiG-29UPG standard under the $964 million contract signed in 2008. Work was completed on three of the 63 airframes lined up for upgradation. The rest of the batch will be upgraded at HAL facilities in India.

Despite reports by some media, it is too early to assume that deliveries of the 12 MiG-29M/M2 fighters to Syria under the 2007 contract have been suspended. The first six aircraft are not scheduled for delivery until the second half of 2013. The situation in Syria may have stabilized by then, making it possible for RSK MiG to either go ahead with the contract or put it on hold indefinitely.

China is again increasing defense imports from Russia through purchases of helicopters and aircraft enginesAnother important event was the resumption of military aviation exports to China. The contract for seven Ilyushin Il-76MD military transports currently operated by the Russian Air Force may appear to be fairly modest but it does indicate a new phase in Russian-Chinese arms trade.

Open-source data suggests that about $1.4 billion’s worth of rotary-wing deliveries were made last year. India was the leading recipient; under a $1.3 billion contract signed in 2008, it is to get 80 Mil Mi-17V-5 transport helicopters. A total of 42 airframes were delivered in 2011 and 2012; the rest are expected to follow in 2013. Other major deliveries of Mi-17 family aircraft in various versions were made to Azerbaijan (presumably 16 units), Afghanistan (12), China (eight), Egypt (at least six), Indonesia (six), Mexico (three), and South Sudan (two). Twelve Mi-35M gunships went to Azerbaijan and another six to Brazil. Myanmar took delivery of four Mi-35P rotorcraft previously operated by the Russian military.

China was the major recipient of aero engines last year after placing massive orders in 2011 and 2012 for 150 AL-31F, 123 AL-31FN, and 184 D-30KP-2 powerplants. Thanks to these contracts China returned to the fold of major Russian armament importers and may have made it to the top five customers with up to $1 billion’s worth deliveries a year, after India, Vietnam, Algeria, and Venezuela.

New contracts

Although Russia continued to suffer a bad streak of failures in Indian Air Force tenders last year, India topped the list of new contracts for Russian military aviation equipment. Indeed, Washington’s 2012 win in the IAF heavy transport helicopter tender came on top of Boeing’s 2011 success with its bid to supply 22 strike helicopters to that country. Nevertheless, winning a contest does not automatically mean landing an actual contract; none of India’s recent major tenders, including those for the MMRCA medium multi-role combat aircraft, for the combat and heavy-lift transport helicopters, and for the air tankers, has yet eventuated in the award of a contract to the winning bidder. The parliamentary election to be held in India in the second half of 2013  may well result in a change of government. This does not seem to be the best time for signing major contracts, which might be hijacked by politicians for their own ends and eventually get revised or cancelled.

Russia for its part has been signing new contracts with India under on-going arms export programs that are devoid of political risks and technology hiccoughs. During Putin’s visit to New Delhi in December last year the countries inked the long-awaited deal for the delivery of 42 Su-30MKI knock-down kits to India. The press looked at previous similar contracts in estimating the deal’s value at $1.6 billion. However, seeing as armament prices grow incessantly, we may assume that the actual sum is greater than that. 

In a separate development, under an additional agreement to the 2008 contract, India will get 71 Mi-17V-5 helicopters for $1.3 billion; 59 rotorcraft will be delivered to the IAF and the remaining 12 to the country’s paramilitary forces. A framework agreement signed in October 2012 envisages deliveries of 920 AL-31FP engines for IAF Su-30MKI fighters through 2030. The engines will come in batches; the value of each batch will be calculated according to a formula agreed by the parties, but the overall price tag of the contract is estimated at $5 billion in 2012 prices.

Under another contract signed during Putin’s visit to India, 216 BrahMos missiles will be supplied for the IAF’s upgraded Su-30MKIs to the tune of $1.2 billion. Russian missile design house NPO Mashinostroyenia will receive half this sum.

Last year’s contract to deliver 36 Mil Mi-28NE gunships to Iraq for $2 billion produced quite a stir in the press but the Iraqi government subsequently voided the deal, citing an overstated price and suspected corruption. The status of this contract is currently unknown but negotiations are understood to be continuing. Among other major customers for Russian rotary-wing aircraft were China (52 Mi-171E helicopters for $624 million), Afghanistan (10 aircraft, to be purchased with Pentagon money), Sri Lanka (14 Mi-171Sh helicopters), Nigeria (about 10 Mi-17/171s), Ghana (six Mi-17s) and Argentina (three examples of the Mi-171E modification).

China continued to shop for Russian powerplants by ordering 140 AL-31F engines from Salyut for $700 million and 184 D-30KP-2 engines from NPO Saturn for $500 million.
Overall, 2012 proved a fairly successful year for Russian manufacturers of fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft, aero engines and airborne weaponry, both in terms of deliveries and newly signed contracts.     

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