Moscow: Russia will shortly begin supply of 38 Smerch-M 300mm BM9A52-2 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) to India under a $450 million deal signed two years ago, according to Russian media reports. Reports in the Russian media also suggest that Rosoboronexport, Russia's monopoly arms export agency, also signed a new option contract last week with the Indian defense ministry for delivery of an additional $300 million worth of these systems.
If correctly reported, the total cost of Smerch MLRS deliveries to India will now be worth $750 million, which will make it one of Russia's largest export orders for infantry weapons.
The original $450 million contract, included the cost of combat vehicles, auxiliary equipment, fire control systems, personnel training, and a commission for Rosoboronexport.
Reports say that these deliveries were delayed as the first lot of these weapons was to have been dispatched to India in the spring of last year. The shipment was held up as the Indian Army had doubts whether the vehicle's engine could maintain a maximum speed of 80 km/hr (50 mph). The doubts were eventually laid to rest, and shipments under the original contract will now be completed by 2008.
The new $300 million agreement envisages the supply of two more batteries (24 units) by 2010. In contract size, Smerch deliveries to India are now equivalent to the sale of 310 T-90S tanks to India in 2001.
The Smerch rocket system has a range of 70 km, extendable to 90 km in particular circumstances, with a barrage time of 38 seconds. The Smerch has smart interchangeable warheads including thermo-baric (vacuum) warheads, which can destroy enemy entrenched in deep bunkers. It will provide the Indian Army capability to neutralise a variety of targets like massed concentration of armour and troop deployments well beyond the range of any of its present artillery systems.
Reports quotes officials of the Tula Splav Design Bureau, which specialise in multiple launch rocket systems, as saying that the firepower and accuracy of Smerch MLRS can be compared with those of short-range tactical nuclear missiles.
Deliveries of Smerch batteries on the original contract with India are to be completed by 2008 and the new deliveries on the options contract by 2010.