NEW DELHI — India's Ministry of Defence (MoD) has asked the Indian Air Force (IAF) to modernize its aging Russian Pechora air defense systems by using only domestic defense companies in accordance with the "Make in India" policy.

Last month, IAF issued a $272 million tender to digitize 16 Pechora systems, and the request for proposals was sent to domestic companies Tata Power SED, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Reliance Defence and Engineering Limited, Offset India Solutions, Mahindra Defence Systems, state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), and Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL).

Currently Indian defense companies do not have the capability to digitize Pechora systems on their own and so they forge technical partnerships with overseas defense companies, according to a senior IAF official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of Pechora systems is Russia's Almaz-Antey, and all Russian defense companies only prefer to work with only state-owned defense companies," he said.

The Pechora upgrade program includes the refurbishment of its missile-guidance radar and the integration of its radar with an Integrated Area Command and Control System (IACCS) of IAF. The upgrade will provide a fresh lease of life for ten years, the IAF official added.

"Indian defense companies have matured enough to build subsystems, and they can procure design and architecture from overseas companies. In addition, Pechora missiles [do] does not require modifications and can be easily [built] be build by India companies," a senior MoD official told Defense News on condition of anonymitysaid in private.

"IAF Pechora systems were inducted in the seventies for airfields and other vital area protection. Most of the 30 missile units have exceeded their useful lives, however extension to their lives have been accorded to keep them operational[ly]. They are still very potent and capable air defense system[s], available with the IAF" retired IAF Air Marshal Daljit Singh said.

"The IAF had planned to replace Pechora systems with MRSAM systems to be purchased from the selected vendor from Israel after due defense procurement processing. The medium range surface to missile (MRSAM) project of procurement of 18 systems has got stalled as the indigenous development content got delayed due to various reasons. Due to lack of spare support for [the] S-125 Pechora system and [a] gap in air defense protection cover, the IAF has rightly decided to go ahead with upgrade of [the] Pechora system," Singh said.

"The upgrade mainly involves digitization of electronics, better communication networking, and improved engagement envelops, deployment and networking," he said.

IAF said domestic companies must carry out digitization for the control cabin, antenna post and launchers of Pechora firing units without any degradation of operational parameters and functionality of the existing system.

In addition, IAF wants digitization of Pechora subsystems, such as the control cabin, target-and-missile tracking system, target-and-missile coordinate system, missile-command generating system, automated launch-computing system, antenna position-and-control system, and launcher positioning-and-control system.

The winner will have to deliver 16 digitized firing units of the Pechora system in 42 months after signing the contract.