Russia’s deputy defence minister Colonel General Alexander Fomin held talks with Bangladesh’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Russian Federation Kamrul Ahsan on 8 September 2020.
The two delegations discussed prospects for strengthening bilateral cooperation in the field of defence and military technical areas. They also expressed mutual intent to enhance ties between their respective armed forces.
Russia is one of the major sources of sophisticated military hardware for Bangladesh. During the last decade Bangladesh has purchased advanced jet trainers, combat-support helicopters, anti-tank guided missiles, air defence weapons, armoured vehicles, munitions and spares from Russia worth over $1.5 billion.
Russia has offered to sell the Su-30SME and MiG-35 fighter aircraft to the Bangladesh Air Force to fulfil its requirement for Multi-Role Combat Aircraft and standardised lightweight category fighter aircraft.
Initially Bangladesh responded positively to the proposal however the two sides failed to negotiate any deal in relation to the cost. It emerged that the Russian counterparts from Rosoboronexport (Russia’s state arms trade agency) asked for a much higher price from Bangladesh compared to unit prices for the same aircraft sold to other friendly countries.
Since then Russia made several attempts to flog off the overpriced fighter jets to the Bangladesh Air Force but failed.
Now the authorities are working to induct the Eurofighter Typhoon or Dassault Rafale in the MRCA category, while the J-10CE would be used as the backbone fighter of the air force’s combat aircraft fleet.
At present the Bangladesh Air Force’s MiG-29B fighters are being upgraded in Belarus to MiG-29BM standards. It was originally planned that the Bangladesh Air Force would purchase the Russian fighter aircraft and upgrade its MiG-29’s through Russian contractors but since it was not cost effective all Russian fighters were effectively dropped from future acquisitions.
Bangladesh is also banking on better relations with the West and China to further its strategic interests. The government was unhappy with the role of Russia in supplying sophisticated military hardware to Myanmar, which could be used against Burmese civilians in the future.
Russia now has very little scope of exporting major defence hardware to Bangladesh except sophisticated air defence systems and helicopters as even Turkey is close to replacing them as a principal source of armoured vehicles. However Bangladesh still continues to purchase military hardware from close allies of Russia such as Serbia and Belarus.
The Bangladesh Army officially stated it will take delivery of another six Mi-171Sh combat-support helicopters in 2021 from Russian Helicopters.