NEW DELHI — A fierce battle has erupted between two state enterprises over ownership of medium- and long-range surface-to-air missile systems that India is developing jointly with Israel.
State enterprises Bharat Dynamics Ltd. (BDL) and Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL) each want to be the sole lead integrator, but the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) is finding it difficult to pacify the competition, according to a senior defense production official with the ministry, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
State-owed Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) is currently undertaking the joint development of two missiles — the long-range surface-to-air missile (LRSAM) and the medium-range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM) projects with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Rafael of Israel.
For the two missiles programs, IAI and Rafael are the sole design authority and DRDO is only a buyer, according to a senior executive of one of the primary suppliers for the two projects.
"Israel has not given any technology transfer of these two missiles, and the intellectual property rights of the missiles are with IAI and Rafael," he said.
The Indian Navy will procure 12 LRSAM systems at a cost of more than $2 billion, while the Indian Air Force will buy MRSAM systems including 450 missiles and 18 firing units at a cost of $2 billion. The Indian Army will purchase the land version of MRSAM, which will include 14 firing units and an unspecified number of missiles at a cost of $1 billion. With an intercept range of 70 kilometers, the naval version is called LRSAM, while the MRSAM is the Army and Air Force version.
Both missile programs, however, are facing delays — LRSAM was supposed to be inducted in the Indian Navy in 2012 while the MRSAM for the Indian Air Force met a two-year delay, the MoD official said.
"We will conducts one test of MRSAM and two tests of LRSAM in Israel within the next three months; thereafter, two tests of each system will be conducted in India later this year," said an IAI executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Each system will comprise one launcher, which will carry eight missiles, a command-and-control system, and a tracking radar, a DRDO scientist said.
"BDL has already invested over $100 million to establish a production facility for both MRSAM and LRSAM in Hyderabad, and it will be operational in the next two years," a BDL official said.
The new production facility will produce 100 missiles each year, he said.
However, one BEL executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that BEL will be the lead inheritor for both systems and that the company has teamed with Elta of Israel to license and produce MFSTAR tracking radar in India.
According to an Indian Navy official "The three [defense] services are yet to conduct final user trials. Only then we can access how capable and proven are these systems."