Acknowledging India's reliance on Russian military hardware for its defence needs, the Trump Administration had said in Nov 2019, that it wants New Delhi to address its protocols and processes on protecting sensitive military technology and procurement processes to be a "tighter and closer partner" of the US.

India announced its intention to acquire S-400 'Triumf' surface-to-air missile systems from Russia in 2015. The contract worth USD 5.43 billion was signed during the visit of President Vladimir Putin to India last year.

The US has opposed the S-400 deal with Russia with the Trump administration threatening to impose sanctions on the states that are acquiring weapons and military hardware from Russia.

However, over the past few years India has slowly weaned away from purchasing Russian weaponry for the armed forces. But, by comparison, the emphasis on purchasing high-tech weaponry has been more for the Indian Air Force.

The 71st Republic Day parade included just three Russian aircraft — both the Sukhoi-30MKI and MiG-29UPG fighters along with the Mi-17V5 medium-lift helicopter. The Ilyushin-76 and Antonov-32 transportation aircraft a mainstay of the IAF were conspicuously absent. On the other hand, the parade featured the recently acquired American made C-130J Super Hercules and C-17 Globemasters heavy transport airlifters.

Other American hardware namely the Apache and Chinook were among the main attractions as they flew across the clear blue sky, leaving the spectators spellbound. 

US-made Chinook, twin-engine, tandem rotor is a multi-role, vertical-lift platform, which is used for transporting troops, artillery, equipment and fuel. Four Chinooks were inducted into the IAF in March last year. Eight US-made Apache stealth attack helicopters were inducted into the IAF in September last year, significantly boosting the force's firepower capability.

Boeing India President Salil Gupte said it was an "incredible honour" for the US firm that three of Boeing's state-of-the-art defence platforms, the C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifter, AH-64E Apache attack gunship and CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopter were part of the flypast parade on India's Republic Day.

"There couldn't have been a better day to showcase the might of these flying machines that help the Indian Air Force command the skies. Boeing has been a strong partner in the modernisation and enhancement of operational capabilities of India's defence forces. We remain committed to this partnership," he was quoted as saying in a statement by Boeing India.

Indian army's mechanised columns have traditionally featured Russian weapons. The only Russian weapon systems displayed were the ubiquitous T-90S Bhishma tank along with time-honoured BMP-2 infantry combat vehicle. Indigenous systems comprised of the brand new K-9 Vajra-T self-propelled medium artillery gun made by L&T Defence, the Ordnance Factory’s Dhanush artillery gun, DRDO’s Sarvatra truck-mounted multi-span, mobile bridging system, Ballway Machine Pikate (II/IIK), 'Eye in the Sky- Netra' AEW&C, BrahMos Missile System, Weapon Locating Radar (Swathi), Bridge Laying Tank T-72, Mobile Base Transceiver Station along with the Akash Air Defence System.

It is worthy to note that India has also acquired the world's most sophisticated howitzers (the M777 ultra light) from the US, strangely, these guns were not on display this year.

Also noteworthy was the presence of newly appointed Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin  Rawat during the event.

Our Bureau