Russia’s Role in India’s Bids for New Carbines and Medium Transport Aircraft

An-32 in Leh Airbase, India.

An-32 in Leh Airbase, India.

“The Indian Air Force (IAF) has initiated the process to find a replacement for the AN-32 transport aircraft in service.”

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the government of India has walked away from several agreements with Russia to acquire or upgrade weapon systems. Indian officials have stated that they do not believe the Russian defense industry could deliver the systems that had previously been agreed to because of the logistical challenges Russia now faces. While the canceled agreements have signaled a decline in bilateral security cooperation, some India-Russia joint ventures continue to operate and produce various systems for the Indian armed forces. Indian officials have noted that security cooperation with Russia will continue, though in a different capacity, as India has been pushing its armed forces to buy more domestically under the Make in India initiative.[i] The accompanying excerpted articles report on several developments within the Indian defense industry, particularly as they pertain to India-Russia security cooperation.

The first excerpted article from the independent English-language newspaper The Hindu, reports that the Indian Air Force recently opened a bid for a medium transport aircraft to replace its Russian AN-32s. The article notes that Indian officials previously stated that the Spanish-made C-295MW has been considered as a potential replacement and that India already ordered 56 C-295s. However, the recently opened bid specifies a heavier transport capacity than the C-295 can hold. India’s current inventory of strategic airlifters consists of around 20 Il-76[GRLCUT(1] s from Russia and a dozen C-17s from the United States, demonstrating how India has looked to multiple partners for heavier transport aircraft in the past. The article also notes that a previous joint India-Russia project to develop and produce a replacement for the AN-32 did not move beyond an initial design. The article does not mention if Russia is putting in a bid for the replacement. The result of the bid may not come out for several months, but it does not appear that Russia has an edge if it submits a bid. The second excerpted article from the English-language magazine Force reports that India’s Defense Ministry held a meeting with potential bidders for an order of 400,000 carbines chambered for 5.56×45 mm rounds and that the Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL) joint venture “was not invited to this meeting.”[ii] The article states how IRRPL started production on the order of 700,000 AK-203[GRLCUT(2]  rifles and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the joint venture as “one of the brightest examples of cooperation within Make in India.” The article goes on to note how Kalashnikov produces a wide range of small arms and could fulfill the bid for the carbines, leading the author to question why a Russian firm was left out of the meeting even as the Indian and Russian defense ministers discussed strengthening cooperation. In any case, the bids illustrate how India is reliant on Russia to fulfill a requirement for its armed forces.


Dinakar Peri, “IAF to procure new transport aircraft to replace AN-32,” The Hindu (independent English-language newspaper), 3 February 2023.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has initiated the process to find a replacement for the AN-32 transport aircraft in service. It has issued a Request For Information (RFI) for the procurement of a Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) with a carrying capacity of 18 to 30 tonnes.

The RFI was issued on December 9, 2022, and the earlier bid submission date of February 3 has now been extended till March 31…

In the past, several IAF officials had stated that the just C-295MW, 56 of which have been just contracted, which falls in similar category as the AN-32 in terms of cargo carrying capacity would be considered as a potential replacement for the AN-32 given that a running assembly line would be available once the 56 aircraft are delivered. However, based on load carrying capacity specified in the RFI, 18 to 30 tonnes, the C-295 no longer fits the bracket as it is in the 5-10 tonnes category…

An earlier project to jointly co-develop and produce a MTA of 20 tonnes with Russia to replace the AN-32s was scrapped few years back after initial design discussions.

In September last year, the Defence Ministry signed a 21.935 Crore contract with Airbus and Space S.A., Spain for procurement of 56 C-295MW transport aircraft to replace the Avro aircraft in service with the IAF which it is executing in partnership with Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL)…

Vinit Shah, “By Invitation – Whither Kalashnikov,” Force (English-language magazine reporting on defense topics in India), 25 January 2023.

Apparently, the ministry of defence held a pre-bid meeting on January 10 with potential bidders for the purchase of 400,000 CQB carbines chambered for 5.56×45 mm. Surprisingly, the Amethi-based India-Russia joint venture, Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL), in which India holds the controlling stake, was not invited to this meeting.

This is doubly strange. One, because the production lines of IRRPL are running with 700,000 AK-203 assault rifles on order; and two, in March 2019, when the JV was announced, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said, ‘the joint venture will contribute to the development of the capacity of the country’s armed forces and strengthen national security… (IRRPL is) one of the brightest examples of cooperation within Make in India…’

It is well-known that the Russian concern Kalashnikov, a partner in IRRPL, produces the widest range of small arms. It will not be difficult for the company with such a diverse portfolio to produce another model of a modern carbine at its state-of-the-art facility in Korva of the Amethi district…It is strange that the MoD gives preference to large-scale production in India of the AK-203 assault rifle chambered for 7.62×39 mm, and then suddenly decides to purchase a large batch of weapons for NATO ammunition 5.56×45 mm. Makes one wonder about the motivation for this, given that foreign minister S. Jaishankar in a recent meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov discussed the details of strengthening Russian-Indian military-technical cooperation…


[i] For more information on the development of India’s defense industry and the cancelled agreements with Russia, see: Matthew Stein “India Cancels Plans to Purchase Russian Equipment,” OE Watch, 6-2022.

[ii] The 5.56×45 mm are the standard round in service rifles in NATO, while some/most/many Russian Kalashnikov variants use the 5.56×39 mm round.

Image Information:

Image: An-32 in Leh Airbase, India
Attribution: CC BY-SA 3.0

New Chinese Aerial Refueling Aircraft Enters Service

Y-20 Aerial Refueling Aircraft.

Y-20 Aerial Refueling Aircraft.

The YY-20 aircraft represents China’s new generation of aerial refueling equipment

Chinese officials recently confirmed that an aerial tanker variant of the Y-20, the YY-20, strategic transport aircraft has entered service [1]. The Y-20 is China’s largest indigenously produced military transport aircraft. As China’s interests overseas continue to expand, the ability to deploy forces rapidly using the base transport variant of the Y-20 will continue to be more important. China’s armed forces previously relied on the HY-6, a modified variant of China’s H-6 bomber, a design that dates to the 1960s. While few details are forthcoming, Chinese media coverage has described the new tanker as having three times the capacity of the HY-6. The YY-20 now likely provides China’s PLA Air Force and PLA Naval Aviation with greater flexibility, endurance, and range, not only for strike aircraft but also for critical enablers such as airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft [2].  The new tanker could also be used to support China’s nascent aerial component of its nuclear triad, which includes an H-6 variant equipped with an aerial refueling probe.


“我军新一代空中加油机运油-20投入练兵备战 (The Chinese Military’s New Generation Aerial Refueling Aircraft Has Entered Service),” PLA Daily (Official PRC Military Newspaper), 5 August 2022.

At the Air Force Aviation Open Event and Changchun Air Show press conference on 31 July, PLA Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke announced that recently, Air Force Yunyou-20 and J-16 aircraft have carried out aerial refueling training at sea, improving the level of realistic combat training.

Under the guidance of Xi Jinping’s thought on strengthening the military, the Air Force has developed high-tech weapons and equipment systematically in accordance with the strategic goal of “integrated air and space capability; simultaneous preparation for offensive and defensive operationsThe YY-20 aircraft represents China’s new generation of aerial refueling equipment, which can effectively enhance the long-range maneuverability of the aviation force while also undertaking the same aerial delivery tasks as the Y-20 aircraft.


[1] In Chinese military nomenclature both Transport [运 yun; transport] and Tanker [油 you; lit, gas/oil] start with Y, hence the YY designation.

[2] For a breakdown of likely capabilities and comparison to U.S. tankers, see: Peter Wood, “China to Modify Y-20 Transport Aircraft for Aerial Refueling,” OE Watch, January 2019.

Image Information:

Image: Y-20 Aerial Refueling Aircraft
Attribution: N509FZ, CC BY-SA 4.0

China’s Newest Aircraft Carrier Extends Capabilities With “Leapfrogged” Technology

A J-15 carrier-based fighter aircraft is taking off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (Type 001).

A J-15 carrier-based fighter aircraft is taking off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (Type 001).

“…a modern navy equipped with aircraft carriers gives China a power projection capability, which was previously unavailable to them.”

In June, China officially floated its third aircraft carrier, the Fujian (Type 003) carrier, which can launch a wider variety of aircraft due to its increased size and the implementation of an electromagnetic catapult launch system (EMALS).  The two excerpted articles, published by Chinese internet technology company NetEase and Indian television broadcast network Noida News 18, provide an overview on the newly unveiled carrier and possible implications of using the groundbreaking EMALS.  The articles also highlight the emphasis the Chinese place on advancing technological developments as quickly as possible.

China’s first two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning (Type 001) and Shandong (Type 002), feature a ski jump deck, which assist jets taking off from the short runway.  The launched aircraft are restricted by size, weight, and payload.  The Liaoning is capable of operating 40 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, while the Shandong can accommodate up to 50 J-15 fighters, an early-warning radar, and anti-submarine aircraft and various helicopters.  The Fujian is now China’s largest aircraft carrier at 80,000 tons and 318 meters.  Its size, coupled with greater capacity and the more condensed EMALS, allows it to carry more types of carrier-based aircraft than its two predecessors do.  These include the upgraded J-15, the new stealth J-35, and the recently unveiled (2020) Air Police 600—an early warning aircraft that can reportedly detect stealth aircraft from a long distance. 

Regarding the launching system, it is noteworthy that the next-step technology would have been a steam-piston driven system, which increases the launch and payload capacity from that of the ski jump.  As the NetEase authors point out, instead, China “leapfrogged” to EMALS, a technology developed by the United States.  The Chinese government, however, claims to have developed and constructed EMALS using all domestic innovation and technology.  Regardless, according to Noida News 18, China is already working on its next aircraft carrier (Type 004), which could be nuclear-powered, greatly extending the country’s long-range operational capabilities. In addition to similar observations regarding the Fujian’s technological advances, Indian observers from Noida News 18 commented that China’s aircraft carriers are not designed to be used in a conflict within the Taiwan Strait, South China Sea, or Indian Ocean region.  The article argues that China has learned from the United States over the past several decades and will most likely use carriers to coerce and punish smaller powers.  Most importantly, the authors argue, they “will help China to overcome the limits of their own geography.”


Song Zhongping,“宋忠平:实现跨越式发展的中国新型航母003 (China’s New Aircraft Carrier 003 Achieves Leapfrog Development),” NetEase (a business and technology oriented Chinese website)20 June 2022.

The Fujian is the first aircraft carrier to have an electromagnetic catapult launch systems (EMALS)…  Like the Shandong, the third aircraft carrier is completely developed and manufactured domestically.

The official displacement of the Fujian exceeds 80,000 tons, which is larger than both the Liaoning and Shandong ships…  The Fujian is also larger than America’s Kitty Hawk class, but smaller than the USS Ford, which has a full load displacement of 110,000 tons.

The Fujian has adopted so many innovative technologies, some of which are world-class.  For example, it is the first time a Chinese aircraft carrier uses EMALS…  The new carrier is able to house more types of carrier-based aircraft, such as the upgraded J-15 fighter and the new stealth J-35.  It will also carry the Air Police 600, a new type of early warning aircraft.

China developed its aircraft carriers for offshore operations and long-sea escort.

It should take another two years for the ship to become fully operational.

Suyash Desai, “What Does China’s New Aircraft Carrier Say About Its Technology and Strategy,” Noida News18 Online (Indian and English language news service based in Noida India.  International coverage provided by CNN while Indian and local news is a product of Indian Broadcast Network), 27 June 2022.

China launched its third aircraft carrier this month.  The type 003, now named Fujian, is China’s biggest, most modern and most powerful aircraft carrier.  At 80,000 tons and 318 meters, the Fujian outstrips all but America’s supercarriers, the new USS Gerald R. Ford-class…

… Fujian is reported to have electromagnetic catapult launch systems (EMALS).  Its main advantage is that it accelerates the aircraft more smoothly, putting less stress on their airframes…  Fujian helps China catch up with the US…  However, like US carries, the Fujian will not be nuclear-powered, meaning its speed, endurance, and long-ranged operational capabilities would still be limited…

…Some authoritative Chinese reports suggest that China has already started the work for building the next aircraft carrier, Type 004, which could possibly be a nuclear-powered carrier.  However, there is no concrete evidence to support this claim.  It reportedly plans to have six aircraft carriers by 2049 to be a world-class force and become a blue water navy to protect and pursue overseas interests.China’s aircraft carriers are not designed for a Taiwan reunification campaign or to have a direct role in a conflict with big powers like the US or India in the Taiwan Strait, South China Sea or Indian Ocean Region.  China is learning from the US’ use of carriers over the past several decades and is most likely to use them in coercing and punishing smaller powers in the near and far seas.  Also, a modern navy equipped with aircraft carriers gives China a power projection capability, which was previously unavailable to them.  But most importantly, the aircraft carriers will help China overcome the limits of their own geography.

Image Information:

Image: A J-15 carrier-based fighter aircraft is taking off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (Type 001)
Source: Government of Japan,
Attribution: CC BY 4.0