New Delhi: India and Israel will jointly develop a medium-range surface-to-air missile (MR-SAM) in a bid to counter emerging and existing threats to cities and important installations in their countries from enemy aircraft and missiles.
"We are jointly developing a 70-km range MR-SAM in partnership with Israeli companies," senior DRDO scientist Dr Prahlad told reporters on the sidelines of a DRDO function here.
"We may take around 12 years but the requirement of the services is that they want it (MR-SAM) fast. The only way to make it four to five years is to partner with a country which has already developed some of the hardware. If they have got some hardware and we have got some knowledge, we can do it in 4-5 years," Dr Prahlad said.
Dr Prahalad added that the DRDO had already developed indigenous air defence systems, such as the Trishul and the Akash. The latter did not fit the bill for the MR-SAM project as its range was only 30 km, while the services had posited teh requirement for a missile system with a range of 70 km.
He said MR-SAM systems would be deployed for the security of the National Capital Region as well as for securing nuclear installations across the country.
The medium range and long range surface-to-air system (MR/LR-SAM) is an Rs10,000 crore (approximately $2.5 billion) project for use by India's land forces. As it did in its development of the PJ-10 BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, a joint venture with Russia, India hopes to create a breakthrough in SAM technologies through a joint venture with Israel.
RAFAEL would be the prime contractor operating under the auspices of the Israel Aircraft Industries. Reports in the media over the previous five months have suggested that a $260 million contract with this Israeli firm would involve the supply of 18 SPYDER systems, with deliveries running through early 2011 to August 2012.
The MR/LR-SAM systems will address critical air defence weaknesses and upgrade "protection of vital and strategic ground assets and area air defence."
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) will be the 'prime developer' for the project which will have a Rs2,300 crore indigenous component. IAI will contribute applicable technology, the same as Russia did for the BrahMos by offering its SS-N-26 Oniks missile as the base platform.
The MR/LR-SAM may surpass even the BrahMos to become the largest joint defence development project ever undertaken by India with any other country.
Running over a time span of 4-5 years the project seeks to provide Indian land forces with at least nine advanced air defence squadrons initially, each with two MR-SAM firing units.
Again, reports would suggest that through the development programme IAI and its Israeli partners will transfer all relevant technologies and manufacturing capabilities to India. The 4-year, $300 million system design and development phase will develop unique system elements and also an initial tranche of the land-based missiles.