In a direct hit to India of a far-away conflict that is threatening Russia’s relations with the western world, a batch of Indian Air Force military transport aircraft are stuck in Ukraine due to the ongoing border conflict and internal strife.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has revealed that the last batch of Indian Air Force AN 32 transport aircraft that had been sent to Ukraine as part of a larger $400 million deal to modernise the fleet and extend its service life are now stuck because of the conflict.
The defence minister has said that officials are working on getting the aircraft back from the crisis-torn nation and that he is hopeful that things would be sorted out shortly. The Soviet-origin AN 32 aircraft are the transport workhorse of the Indian Air Force and are vital to maintaining and supplying troops located in the Eastern and Northern borders.
As per a 2009 contract with Ukraine’s state-owned Ukrspetsexport Corp, India was to send 40 aircraft for upgrade over four years, starting 2011.
At least 30 of these have been returned. Another 65 of the aircraft were to be upgraded with Ukrainian help at an Indian facility in Kanpur. The upgrade would extend the service life of the transporters from 25 years to 40 years.
While several batches of the aircraft have been refurbished and flown back to India since 2011, Parrikar’s statement indicates that the last batch of 5-10 aircraft that were to be completed by March 2014 are now stuck with efforts on the retrieve them.
The conflict with Russia has severely affected Ukraine’s industry as large parts of the nation that provided equipment are now under rebel hands. Parrikar said efforts are on to find alternate sources for Ukrainian spares with efforts on to find suppliers in Israel and France.
Also, flying of military aircraft has been restricted in Ukraine after the shooting town of Malaysian Airlines MH 17 last year.