Tuesday, 4 December 2012

India urges Israel to speed up defence projects

India has asked Israel to speed up crucial bilateral defence projects, including the around Rs 13,000 crore development of two advanced surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems to arm Indian armed forces against hostile aircraft, drones and helicopters.

This came at the 10th joint working group on defence cooperation here, co-chaired by defence secretary Shashikant Sharma and Israeli defence ministry director-general Major-General Ehud Shani.

While the regional and global security situation, including the recent Israel-Hamas ceasefire, figured in the talks, the focus was on bilateral defence training programmes, exchanges, R&D projects and armament deals.

Israel is India's second largest defence supplier, second only to Russia, but the expansive ties are largely kept under wraps due to political sensitivities. Tel Aviv records military sales worth around $1 billion to New Delhi every year, ranging from Heron and Searcher UAVs, Harpy and Harop 'killer' drones to Barak anti-missile defence systems and Green Pine radars, Python and Derby air-to-air missiles.

Sources said India expressed "concern'' at the "two-year delay'' in completion of the long-range SAM (LR-SAM) project, sanctioned in December 2005 at a cost of Rs 2,606 crore to arm Indian warships.

There are "minor hitches'' even in the bigger Rs 10,076 crore medium-range SAM (MR-SAM) project, sanctioned in February 2009 for air defence squadrons of IAF.

Both the SAM systems, being developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) in collaboration with DRDO, have the same missile with an interception range of 70-km. They are to be produced in bulk by defence PSU Bharat Dynamics (BDL) to plug the existing holes in India's air defence cover.

"While the multi-function surveillance and threat radars, weapon control systems with data links and the like of the LR-SAM have all been tested, there has been delay in the missiles being developed by IAI,'' said a source.

"But the Israelis said everything was sorted out now and they will try to make up for the delay. DRDO has already finished its work on the propulsion and other systems,'' he added. Incidentally, the LR-SAM project was to be completed by May this year.

Another major missile project, worth around $1 billion, that Israel could bag is the one to supply third-generation anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) to the 1.13-million strong Indian Army. The Army has already trial-evaluated the Israeli 'Spike' ATGM after the US offer of its 'Javelin' missiles was shelved due to Washington's reluctance to undertake "transfer of technology'' to ensure BDL can make them in large numbers, as reported by TOI earlier.

India is also in commercial negotiations for another two advanced Israeli Phalcon AWACS (airborne warning and control systems), capable of detecting hostile aircraft, cruise missiles and other incoming aerial threats far before ground-based radars, at a cost of over $800 million. The first three Phalcon AWACS were inducted by IAF in 2009-2010 under the $1.1 billion tripartite agreement between India, Israel and Russia.

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