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India Hedges its Bets by Looking for Homegrown Surface-to-air Missiles

Sep. 12, 2013 - 10:46AM   |  
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NEW DELHI — Despite the ongoing development of a $2 billion Indo-Israeli Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM) project, the Indian Air Force is looking to domestic firms to buy an additional unspecific number of MRSAM systems as it looks to replace its aging Russian-made Pechora surface-to-air missiles.

No official with the Indian Defence Ministry would say why the need arose to acquire more MRSAMs even as the Indo-Israeli project is developing. Sources in the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which partnered with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Rafael of Israel in 2009 for the program, said the MRSAM prototype has failed initial tests. Sources added that the induction of the first firing unit will take place no earlier than 2017, as opposed to the planned induction this year.

An MoD source said India has decided to buy high-tech and big-ticket weapons and equipment from the domestic market to safeguard itself from any delays by overseas firms.

The government made this move after the passage of the Arms Trade Treaty this year, the source said, adding that procurement of MRSAM from the domestic market is part of this thinking. Analysts believe that, due to the treaty, India will face strict regulations from exporters on weapons such as combat and stealth aircraft, attack helicopters, warships and artillery.

The requests for information went to state-owned Bharat Electronics Ltd., Larsen & Toubro, Tata Power SED, Punj Lloyd, Bharat Forge, Mahindra Defense Systems and Data Patterns India.

None of the domestic companies has produced an MRSAM system in full, though they can develop and produce systems such as radars and launchers.

The MRSAM will be procured using the “Buy and Make India” category, meaning the chosen domestic company will license-produce the systems with at least 50 percent of their components produced indigenously.

The domestic defense companies, in turn, would forge partnerships with overseas defense majors including US-based Raytheon, IAI Rafael of Israel, France-based MBDA, Russia-based Rosoboronexport and the Doosan Group of South Korea.

None of the domestic company executives who received the request would comment on their capabilities to produce the MRSAM, nor would they say which overseas partners they would join.

“The main reason the Indian Defence Ministry is resorting to procuring the MRSAM under the ‘Buy and Make India’ category is to ensure that the system is produced in India with technology transfer from the start including the development stage so that there are no restrictions of any sort due to any international treaty at a future date,” said New Delhi-based defense analyst Nitin Mehta.


The request for information says the detection range of the MRSAM should be more than 200 kilometers, and that the radar should have rain-clutter-rejection capability, atmospheric ionization rejection and compensation capability.

The system must have a maximum range of 100 kilometers and should be able to engage targets at 1,200 meters per second. The vendors will have to specify the kill probability for engagement envelopes of single and salvo launches.

The system should be all-terrain, day-and-night capable and mobile. In addition, it should be light enough to be transported by the Russian-made IL-76, and US-made C-130J and C-17 transport aircraft.

The Air Force intends to integrate the MRSAM with network-centric facilities available and under development. As far as communication systems are concerned, the system should be provided with wired, wireless and satellite communication facilities with secure, jam-proof facilities.

A DRDO scientist said the MRSAM system under development with Israel carries an active radar seeker, dual pulse rocket motor a robust electronic counter-counter measures features. The system can also be integrated with air-borne platforms such as airborne warning and control systems for centralized command and control.

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