Russian mass media falsely report that five Indian airplanes have gone missing during an upgrade in Ukraine. The airplanes, An-32s, were to be upgraded by the Ukrainian state-owned Antonov plant under a 2009 service contract.
The news about five missing Indian airplanes first appeared on the DefenseNews site on March 28. According to the site, an Indian Air Force official said that the five of their aircraft were missing and it was difficult to trace them. Diplomatic efforts to find their whereabouts had failed.
However, the planes are in Ukrainian shops, and the Indian authorities are aware of this. The upgrade has been temporarily suspended because of a lack of required components.
The loss of the planes has been publicly refuted by all involved sources. The Antonov press service disclosed the details of its contract with the Indian Ministry of Defense to StopFake: “The contract to upgrade 105 light transport An-32 aircraft was concluded by the Ministry of Defense of India with Ukrspetsexport Corp in 2009 at a cost of $400 million. According to the agreement, 40 airplanes are to be upgraded by the state-owned enterprise Plant 410 of Civil Aviation and 65 airplanes in India, at a plant in Kanpur. So far the modernization of 35 airplanes has been completed and they have been delivered to the Indian Air Force. The other 5 planes, which are to be upgraded in Ukraine, are with Plant 410 of Civil Aviation. The supply of components for airplanes is under the supervision of Plant 410 of Civil Aviation.”
“Therefore, the information about five Indian Air Force An-32s missing in Ukraine is not true,” concluded the Antonov press service. They have also posted this on the company website.
On March 30, the loss of the planes was also officially refuted by the Indian Ministry of Defense: “Media reports on missing Indian war planes during an upgrade are baseless, as confirmed by the Indian Air Force (IAF). The last five An-32s that were sent for upgrades to Ukraine are accessible in a factory in Ukraine. There have been delays in upgrades due to the non-availability of components as a result of the ongoing geopolitical standoff between Ukraine and Russia.”
The question of the missing Indian airplanes being repaired in Ukraine was raised by the Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on March 18, as reported by the Indian news site The Economist Times. The minister said that the modernization should have been completed by the end of March 2015, but the last batch of airplanes had been stuck in Ukraine because of the conflict. Parrikar also added that officials were working on solving this issue and that he hoped that things would be sorted out soon.
The Economist Times reported that Ukraine’s conflict with Russia has severely affected Ukraine’s industry, as a large part of plants that provided equipment are now under rebel control. Parrikar said efforts have been made to find alternate sources for Ukrainian components in Israel and France.
According to experts, Russia could profit from the over-hyped story of the allegedly missed planes. Having presented Ukraine as an unreliable partner, Russia might obtain the Indian contract, as reported by LigaBusinessInform.