The conflict in Ukraine is extremely likely to signal the end of Ukraine as a net exporter of defence equipment. According to GlobalData intelligence, the country exported $1.2bn worth of equipment in the last five years, compared to $123m worth of imports. Given that much of the domestic defence infrastructure has likely been destroyed in the conflict, and with Ukraine increasingly reliant on defence imports in its efforts to repel Russian invasion, it is highly unlikely that high levels of export will return.
Ukraine has long found a market in selling Soviet-era weapons and aircraft to countries at cheaper rates than Russia had offered, and prior to the annexation of Crimea, it has sold aircraft parts to Russia. Ukraine was left with about 30% of the Soviet Union’s defence industry on its territory following its dissolution, it has significant companies, including Antonov, which produced a number of heavy-lift aircraft, including the AN-225. This left them with such large production relative to Ukraine’s relatively small military, leading them to develop a significant export market – with China making up a 35% market share over the last five years according to GlobalData.
China is likely to be affected significantly by this because they have historically relied on Ukraine to provide radars and air-to-air weaponry for their versions of soviet-era aircraft, including the J-11B, which is based on the SU-27. China also imports tank engines from Ukraine, which are used in the T-8OUD, which China exports to Pakistan, and the VT-1A tank utilised by China and Pakistan. They also provide the QC-280 gas turbines that are utilised by China’s type 055 destroyers.
The conflict in Ukraine has caused significant destruction to infrastructure across the country, with Russia bombing or taking over numerous airfields and aircraft, including the previously mentioned AN-225 being destroyed. The main defence industry association of the country ‘Ukroboronprom’ indicated that the Ukrainian military is making efforts to defend functioning defence infrastructure in the country, however, it is unknown how long this defence will last, and China is likely to be the most significantly affected country following this conflict.