When it comes to Russian aerospace products, conventional wisdom is: The equipment is good, the after-market is awful.

Ask the Indian air force (IAF) and its officials would emphatically agree. Sourcing of spares and consumables for its Russian-built aircraft and weapon systems has sunk to a new low for the IAF, with the government permitting it to issue multiple global tenders for spares across a range of systems. The move marks a striking break from the Indian defense ministry’s traditional practice of contracting spares from original equipment manufacturers via Rosoboronexport.

Now the IAF is turning to vendors in Europe, Israel and the U.S. to respond to an urgent spares call for Russian-built equipment it has in inventory.

There are more than 25 tenders on the street, with more floated each day. The service needs everything from terminals and transformers for its MiG-29 fighters to main wheels for its Su-30 fleet. It also needs multiple spares for its Il-76/-78 transport fleet, Mi-26 and Mi-17 helicopters and virtually all Russian-built ground radars, including its P-19 Danubes.

The MiG-29 situation may be the most difficult. The aircraft is undergoing an extensive upgrade, which means it needs close to 150 different spare parts, including shield installations, main and nose wheels, video amplifiers and photo diodes, as well as minor items such as transformers, capacitors and resistors.

The issue goes beyond cost and poor relations with its supplier. For the IAF there is a very real day-in, day-out operational cost. For example, Il-78 refueling tankers are suffering from a lack of major parts, hobbling mission rates.

The supply problems are not new. What appears to have changed is that the IAF has finally had enough. Perhaps with more access to Western equipment, it no longer believes it has to put up with years of neglected customer service from Russia. Instead, service leaders say they want an unhindered flow of spares for their aircraft and weapons.

Indian sources indicate that Rosoboronexport—the sales agency for most Russian hardware—had put up multiple roadblocks to an assured spares supply. These variously include demands for price revisions on existing warranties and contracts, demands for advances on warehousing spares and consumables, even demands for fresh contracts.

An official at the Russian Trade Federation in New Delhi, acknowledges that “there are some problems that need attention.” But, he adds, “global tenders for type-specific spares may be counter-productive. Also, price and economy of scale will be a major problem. The two sides need to work out these differences and get on with it.”

Russia in the past has punished customers who have tried to circumvent its supply chain by effectively restricting all support for the system in question.

A senior IAF officer familiar with the acquisition process says “it is an historic fact that after-sales relations with the Russians have always been shaky. That could be understood, if not forgiven, under the Soviet Union, but we have wasted too much time putting up with the situation now.”

Concerning the current effort to find an alternative source of supply, the officer says “the [IAF] cannot afford to waste precious time and funds contracting for critical spares, when it is the original equipment maker’s responsibility to ensure supply on any given day. When you have spares supply problems with an ongoing flagship program like the Su-30MKI, then you know something is very, very wrong.”