* Concern over high cost of naval surface-to-air missiles
* Naval MR-SAM orders put on hold for price review
* India’s defence secretary met Israeli counterpart on July 13
* India wants to do more defence R&D for weapons with Israel
New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government in India has put on hold orders for Barak-8 medium range surface-to-air missiles for its 12 under-construction warships, including Vikrant aircraft carrier, following concerns over the high cost of the joint project with Israel. It has also called for a review of the prices, before the Indian order for the missiles can be delivered.
This has also led to the estimated Rs 14,000-crore ($2 billion) Army project to acquire these MRSAM systems — missiles, launchers, surveillance and threat tracking radars, and fire control systems — to be kept in abeyance till now.
The concern over the MR-SAM’s price was red-flagged by Indian Defence Secretary G. Mohan Kumar to Israeli defence ministry Director General Major General Udi Adam (retired) during the 12th meeting of the high-powered Joint Working Group between the two nations here on July 13.
Mohan Kumar was told to raise the matter with his Israeli counterpart by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, reported the Times of India today.
Military R&D Focus
India also has plans of doing more defence research and development (R&D) projects to develop hi-tech weapon systems with Israel, in a bid to further enhance the scope of their strategic ties, it said, citing unnamed sources from the Indian defence ministry.
The JWG also discussed probable joint R&D projects in fields like high-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), micro-satellite surveillance systems, armoured vehicles and different types of missiles and precision-guided munitions, the report said.
The joint naval project by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation and Israeli Aerospace Industries to develop and test the MR-SAM system had faced a huge delay, sanctioned by the Cabinet Committee on Security in December 2005 at an initial cost of Rs. 2,606 crore ($300 million). The missiles are to be mass produced by Indian defece public sector Bharat Dynamics Limited.
The Indian Air Force project for the same missile type for nine of its air defence squadrons were cleared in February 2009 for Rs. 10,076 crore ($1.5 billion). While the naval system was tested for the first time in November 2014, the IAF version of the missile was tested thrice earlier this month, it said.
With over 70-kilo metre interception range against enemy aircraft, drones and missiles, the naval MR-SAM has already been fitted on the three new Kolkata-class destroyers. But each MR-SAM system is now projected to cost around Rs 1,200 crore ($180 million) for the 12 under-construction warships in Indian shipyards, including the aircraft carrier Vikrant being built at Cochin Shipyard, four guided-missile destroyers and seven stealth frigates.
Big Ticket Items
There are other big-ticket deals too in the pipeline, including two more Israeli Phalcon AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) to be mounted on Russian IL-76 military aircraft, and four more Aerostat radars.
The IAF is also on course to acquire 164 laser-designation pods or ‘Litening-4‘ for fighter jets like Sukhoi-30MKIs and Jaguars as well as 250 advanced ‘Spice‘ precision stand-off bombs capable of taking out fortified enemy underground command centres, the report said.
The Army is also looking to acquire the Israeli third-generation ‘Spike‘ anti-tank guided missile systems, with an initial 321 launchers and 8,356 missiles, which too is making slow progress due to the high costs, it said. The force is likely to go in for an initial two regiments of the Israeli ‘Spyder‘ quick-reaction SAM systems to defend its forward units for enemy air strikes, it said.