NEW DELHI — India has launched first-ever global hunt for anti-ship missiles with a budget of $1 billion. But a requirement for those missiles, to be built by domestic companies, could be difficult to meet.

The medium-range anti-ship missiles must be capable of engaging fast-maneuvering targets within India’s exclusive economic zone in all weather conditions, and have land-attack capability.

A formal tender will be issued by mid-2018, and India hopes to negotiate a quick delivery of the product.

India’s Ministry of Defence wants the production license rights after it receives a transfer of technology for the medium-range anti-ship missiles.

Although no domestic company in India has ever manufactured an anti-ship missile, the MoD will award the contract to a local business as part of the Make in India policy; a foreign vendor will then have to tie up with the domestic company and bid for the tender, an MoD official explained.

The domestic companies likely to participate include private sector firms Reliance Defence Engineering Limited, Bharat Forge, and Larsen & Toubro, as well as state-owned Bharat Dynamics Limited.

“Though the MoD may be keen to take this RFI through the Make in India route, there is currently no ecosystem for complete missile system manufacturing other than some work done by few public and private sector companies,” an Indian Navy official said. “MoD must be very careful before taking through this prospective program through the Make In India route, as the same will have a huge implications on costs and timelines.”

He cautioned: “A missile system is more like a complete platform with complex web of subsystems dependent upon a large supply chain. To justify transfer of technology for major subsystems for number of missiles specified in RFI will be a near-about-impossible task to accomplish.”

Anti-ship missiles currently deployed on large Indian Navy frigates and destroyers include the Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile as well as Russian-made Kh-35 and 3M Klub anti-ship missile variants. The service also uses American-made Harpoon anti-ship missiles on its German HDW-class submarines and on eight Boeing P-8I aircraft.

Saab of Sweden, Rosoboronexport of Russia, Israel Aerospace Industries of Israel, Raytheon of the U.S. and MBDA of France are expected to participate in the competition, an MoD official said. The request for information issued in the middle of August was for the purchase of 270 combat, 40 practice, 10 training, six dummy and four cut-section medium-range anti-ship missiles, plus 24 systems for fitment on board warships. The missiles will be mounted on a variety of warships.

“The requirement would be 1,000-plus missiles, as they have dual-use concept for anti-ship and for land target, too,” a senior Navy official said.

The new medium-range missiles will replace Russian-made Kh-35 variants. The first phase, according to the RFI, will be worth $276 million. The Indian Navy is slated to induct new anti-ships missiles in 2024.

Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.

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