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NEW DELHI — India and Israel agreed to jointly develop a medium-range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM) system for the Indian Army to replace Russian-made air defense systems, said a source in the Indian Defence Ministry.

The land version of MRSAM would be an extension of the ongoing Air Force MRSAM project, which is expected to begin induction by 2017, three years behind scheduled. The Army has an immediate need for one regiment (18 systems) of MRSAMs at a cost of $1.5 billion, but the total requirement for these systems is estimated to be more than $6 billion, said an Army official.

The agreement to jointly develop the land version of MRSAM, which will have a range of up to 70 kilometers, emerged during a Feb. 22 meeting here between visiting Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and his Indian counterpart, Manohar Parrikar, the source added.

Negotiations for developing the land version had been put on hold two years ago following delays in the Air Force project. However, several rounds of negotiations between Indian and Israeli officials during the last six months have finalized the joint development agreement for the land version, the source added.

The Army mobile MRSAM systems will be jointly developed by India's state-owned defense research agency, the Defence Research and Development Organization, and Rafael and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) of Israel. Both sides will develop subsystems although the details of that arrangement have yet to be finalized. The system will be produced by India's state-owned Bharat Dynamics Ltd., in participation with domestic private sector companies Tata Power SED and Larsen & Toubro, the source added.

IAI has declined to comment on the program.

An Indian Army official said the service has needed a new surface-to-air missile system for more than a decade to replace Russian-made Kvadrat and OSA-AKM systems bought between 1970 and 1980.

The Army wants to use the MRSAM to defend mechanized formations operating in the plains and desert regions of the country.

In 2008, an attempt to acquire MRSAMs from the global market failed because none of the bidders qualified under India's transfer of technology requirements.

In 2009, India and Israel agreed to jointly make the air version of MRSAM, but it is still under development despite a planned delivery time of 2013-14 because of unspecified technical snags in the initial tests of the prototype, the MoD source said. First delivery is now expected by 2017, the source added.

Email: vraghuvanshi@defensenews.com

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