Friday, November 28, 2014
Is New Russia a Reliable Partner?
Before reaching Brisbane, Putin had denied sending tanks into Ukraine and said that he would not bring up the issue of the G20 meeting ‘it'll make no sense’. He however had a tough time.
But to show his muscles, Vladimir Putin had come to Australia accompanied by 4 warships, which he stationed off the country’s northeastern coast.
One can understand that in these circumstances Russia’s popularity has touched new lows. Tony Abbott, the Australian Prime Minster bluntly told the Russian President: “Russia would be so much more attractive if it was aspiring to be a superpower for peace and freedom and prosperity, if it was trying to be a superpower for ideas and for values, instead of trying to recreate the lost glories of tsarism or the old Soviet Union.”
The world media agreed that the West ‘lined up to browbeat him over Ukraine’; as a result, Putin left before the farewell lunch.
All is not well between India and Russia too. Take the project of a fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA). New Delhi is more and more concerned about the slow progress of the joint venture between India and Russia.
A few months ago, Mid Day reported: “Driving India's worries is the fact that the Russians are neither explaining why a prototype aircraft caught fire during a technology demonstration earlier this year nor addressing other technical doubts expressed by India.”
The worst is that despite being equal partners in the FGFA project, Moscow is not keen to share technical details about its next generation stealth fighter.
In 2010, officials of Hindustan Aeronautics Ldt. (HAL) and Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau had signed a preliminary agreement to jointly design and produce a FGFA to be later used by both countries. Delhi and Moscow are said to have invested US $ 295 million for the preliminary designs. Unfortunately, differences on the work share have cropped up between HAL and Sukhoi with the Indian side rightly insisting on parity. Ultimately the project is supposed to cost over $30 billion for about 400 aircraft, out of which India requires a total of 144. But when the IAF asked a twin-seat variant, Moscow demanded an additional $1 billion, which was refused by Delhi.
The precursor for the FGFA is the PAK-FA (an acronym for Perspektivnyi Aviatsionnyi Kompleks Frontovoi Aviatsy or Prospective Aircraft Complex of Frontline Aviation); also referred to as the T-50 by Sukhoi, the aircraft first flew in January 2010. Moscow says that five prototypes are currently being tested.
According to The Business Standard on January 15, 2014, during a meeting at the MoD in Delhi to review FGFA progress, some Indian officials affirmed that: “the FGFA's engine was unreliable, its radar inadequate, its stealth features badly engineered, India's work share too low, and that the fighter's price would be exorbitant by the time it enters service.”
In November, Russian Deputy Premier Dmitry Rogozin visited New Delhi (ahead of Vladimir Putin’s arrival in India in December) to discuss issues related to the FGFA. Some sources said that the differences have now been ironed out and that a deal is expected to be inked in December during Mr. Putin’s visit. It is highly improbable.
Another irritant has recently emerged in the bilateral relations between India and Russia; it will also have to be sorted out before Putin’s arrival: a ‘Chinese’ Brahmos appeared at the Zhuhai Airshow 2014 in China.
The new CX-1 supersonic anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) developed by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) strangely resembles the Russian-Indian BrahMos cruise missile.
Russia immediately rubbished the claim that it has offered to China the BrahMos missile technology. NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM), DRDO’s partner declared that reports saying that they had ‘given’ to China the BrahMos technology, in order to develop its CX-1 missile, are completely inaccurate. Another Russian military source is quoted by Russia and India Reporter (RIR): “NPOM believes that neither the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles nor the Yakhont missiles manufactured in Russia have anything in common with the Chinese missiles except for some external characteristics …Judging by the photos, indeed, the missiles are observed as having a similar external shape.” It however admitted “the missiles have a similar maximum speed and flying range,” though “these characteristics cannot be used to make a judgment about the rocket. There are many other indicators.”
Well, the Government will have to look into the issue in greater detail and check if the Russians are as reliable partners as they have been in the past.
A small mercy, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha announced that the Indian Air Force (IAF) was able to find the technical defects in the Sukhoi-30 (SU-30) aircraft which resulted in a crash of one aircraft and the grounding of the fleet.
Raha said: “The court of inquiry has not yet finalised the final findings. But preliminary findings we know and we know we will be able to tackle it. I don't want to tell you exactly the reason, but we know the reason."
On October 14, a Su-30 had crashed when both seats of the aircraft were ejected; fortunately both pilots survived. At that time, a MoD released a statement: "One Su-30 fighter of the IAF was involved in an accident … in which both ejection seats had fired whilst the aircraft was coming in to land. A Court of Inquiry (CoI) had immediately been constituted to investigate the cause of accident. Meanwhile, as is the procedure in such cases, the flying of the Su-30 fleet has been temporarily suspended [while] certain specific checks are being conducted on the aircraft."
The CoI has not been able to give its conclusions so far, as the Russians insist that it was a ‘pilot error’. Anyway, according to Raha, the IAF will start flying the aircraft in a few days.
This does not stop Russia to be more and more aggressive in its marketing ways. Alexander Kadakin, Russia's ambassador to India recently declared that “fighter planes fall into two categories – the hunters and the hunted.”
While the French “are pitching their Rafale as the dogfight duke that is the crème de la crème of jet fighters,” the Russians assert that Chinese-made Sukhoi-27s would be able to swat the Rafales like ‘mosquitoes on an August night.’
The Russians say that the Rafale is “a largely unknown commodity in aviation circles. Like most French fighters, it is most likely an unassuming, unspectacular but honest aircraft.”
Ambassador Kadakin explained to some Indian journalists: "We (Russia) are still very surprised that Rafale is being bought, because if the Rafale is intended to oppose Pakistani or Chinese planes, then the Sukhoi which the Chinese produce, or mobilizes, but which is only 50 percent of the Sukhoi which you (India) produce, then even for the Chinese Sukhoi, these Rafales will be like mosquitoes on an August night. They will be shot down like mosquitoes. That's why I don't understand why..."
Francois Richier, the French envoy to India wisely answered that he would not like to make any comments uttered by a ‘grumpy competitor’, adding “The negotiations [for the Rafales] are progressing well." He quoted statements made by Indian defence officials in the recent past about the progress and the recent visit to Delhi of Chairman of French Dassault Aviation:"It is a signal that it is moving in the right direction."
To conclude, an amazing story found on chinasmack.com: according to the website, which provides to English-speaking readers ‘glimpse into modern China and Chinese society by translating popular, trending Chinese internet content and netizen discussions’. The story shows the functioning of Old Soviet Union. Du Wenlong, a Chinese military expert admitted on Yunnan TV: “Back when we [the Chinese Air Force] were importing Su-27s, Russia was also having economic difficulties. They only wanted three things: One, flashlights; two, vacuum flasks; three, dog pelt coats. 10,000 dog pelt coats, that created a lot of pressure/difficulties for us. It takes 18 dog pelts to make one dog pelt coat. So that winter we killed all the dogs in the three provinces of Henan, Shandong, etc. in order to trade for Su-27s. So dogs in China had made significant contributions to China’s military and weapons modernization.”
Whether the story is true or not, the times have changed, though it is apparent that Vladimir Putin is still suffering from the Soviet Union ‘nostalgia’.
Let us hope that this will not disrupt India’s old partnership with Russia, though Delhi should remain firm with Moscow and refuse to take any bullying.