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India Presses Israel on Joint Missile Project

Jan. 28, 2013 - 07:25AM   |  
By VIVEK RAGHUVANSHI   |   Comments
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NEW DELHI — The Indian government has asked Israel to speed up development of its joint medium-range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM) project, which has faced technical snags since its inception in 2009.

MRSAM topped the agenda when Air Chief Marshal N.K. Browne, commander of the Indian Air Force, visited Israel last week, Ministry of Defence sources said here.

During his Jan. 21-23 visit, Browne was scheduled to meet with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak; Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, chief of the General Staff; Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, commander of the Israeli Air Force; and Rear Adm. Ophir Shohaim, director of the Directorate for Defense Research and Development.

Browne also discussed with the Israelis air-to-air missiles and precision-guided munitions that India might want to acquire.

The MRSAM, a joint weapon development project being undertaken by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), along with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), seeks to deliver at least 18 firing units along with related systems at a cost of more than $2 billion. Each firing unit has 16 missiles. India also hopes the system can be used by the Indian Army, but that remains unclear, the sources said.

The MRSAM prototype failed its first test, held late last year, Defence Ministry sources said, but they provided no details. Development is being carried out under secrecy here.

MRSAM is intended to intercept enemy missiles at a range of 70 kilometers. It carries an active radar seeker and a bidirectional data link for midcourse guidance and kill assessment, an Indian Air Force official said. It will also be equipped with an advanced rotating phased array radar to provide a high-quality air situation picture.

The Indian Army also has a requirement for an unspecified number of MRSAMs to move with mechanized forces and provide organic mobile air defense protection. The Army requirement of MRSAM is also worth more than $2 billion.

Defence Ministry sources said that in addition to discussions on MRSAM, Browne reviewed information from the Israelis on air-to-air missiles and precision-guided munitions that India could acquire.

The Air Force already has purchased 18 Spyder surface-to-air missile systems from Israeli company Rafael to protect high-value assets following the failure of India’s homegrown Quick Reaction System, the Trishul, after nearly 15 years of development.

Last year, the Air Force bought the Israeli Derby medium-range active radar seeker air-to-air missile, made by Rafael, to be mounted on the homemade Light Combat Aircraft, which the DRDO is developing. Earlier, the Air Force had purchased Israeli Python-5 air-to-air missile systems.

Israel also has helped Indian scientists develop the homemade Prithvi air defense ballistic missile system. Though no formal agreement has been signed, DRDO and Israel are developing India’s land attack missile project, including a land attack cruise missile.

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