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India, Russia to Upgrade Joint Military Exercise

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India, Russia to Upgrade Joint Military Exercise

This year’s joint Indo-Russian military exercise will include army, navy, and air force elements for the first time.

India, Russia to Upgrade Joint Military Exercise
Credit: Indian Navy

Russia and India are upgrading their military ties. According to the Indian Ministry of Defense (MOD), this year’s iteration of the Indo-Russian Indra bilateral military exercise will involve personnel from all three service branches from both countries.

Since its inception in 2003, the Indra military exercise has alternatively involved Indian and Russian ground and naval forces.

“The Indra bilateral drills will for the first time be held with the participation of servicemen and military hardware of the Army, the Air Force and the Navy,” an Indian MOD spokesperson said this week. “This is the first instance when all the three armed services of the Armed Forces will take part in the joint drills.”

Last year’s Indra military exercise was held from December 14 to December 21 in the Indian port of Visakhapatnam and the Bay of Bengal.

The Indian Navy dispatched the Rajput-class guided-missile destroyer INS Ranvir, the Shivalik-class stealth multi-role frigate INS Satpura, and the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) corvetteINS Kamorta, in addition to a number of rotary and fixed wing aircraft.

Russia sent the Admiral Tributs, a 6,930-ton Project 1155 Udaloy I-class anti-submarine warfare destroyer, a Project 956 Sovremennyy-class destroyer, a sea tug, and the Boris Chilikin-class fleet replenishment oiler Boris Butoma, in addition to a Ka-27 ASW helicopter.

India and Russia also held a separate counterterrorism exercise under the Indra framework involving land forces of both countries near Vladivostok, Russia in October 2016. The exercise involved around 500 military personnel from both sides and focused on counterterrorism operations under a United Nations mandate.

This year’s exercise is scheduled to be held in Russia in October or November.  The scenarios for the exercise have already been preliminarily discussed by the countries. Representatives of the Indian and Russian defense ministries will soon hold two additional meetings to “complete planning for Indra-2017 expanded maneuvers,” the MoD noted in late April.

This will be an opportunity for India to synergize jointness between its services and see how other countries function jointly,” a MoD source told The Hindu last month.  The Indian military has been pushing towards better integration of its three service branches based on a warfighting doctrine emphasizing joint operations.

Beyond that, India’s military seeks “complete and effective inter-operability” with “countries, big and small” in order to effectively conduct military operations overseas, The Diplomat reported last month in an article analyzing India’s latest Joint Armed Forces Doctrine.

India-Russia defense relations have somewhat cooled over the last months with the cancellation of an aircraft deal and continuing disagreements over one of their most prestigious defense projects—the co-development and production of the Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), known in India as the Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF).