India on Friday cleared a Rs17,000-crore deal to jointly develop with Israel a medium-range surface-to-air missile (MR-SAM) for the army, giving a big push to Indo-Israeli defence ties.
The project, which will help protect India's airspace from enemy aircraft or drones, will be implemented by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Israeli Aircraft Industry (IAI).
A meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Wednesday approved the missile deal, sources said.
The MR-SAM, a land-based version of the long-range surface-to-air missile (LRSAM) for the navy, will have a strike range of up 70 km. The deal envisages 40 firing units and around 200 missiles.
Delivery of the first system for the Army will begin in 72 months of signing of the contract and the missiles would be ready for deployment in field areas by the year 2023, say reports.
The local development of the target-homing missile defence system involves a lot of make in India element and involves several companies, both in the public and private sectors.
Hyderabad-based Bharat Dynamics Limited will produce missiles of the system while Bharat Electronics Ltd, Larsen and Toubro and Tata Group will supply several systems and sub-systems for it.
BDL has established a separate production facility for production of both long and medium range missiles with an annual production capacity of 100 missiles. The Army will deploy these air defence systems to provide protection to vital assets and points across the country.
India and Israel are jointly developing similar systems for the Air Force and the Navy.
The Air Force had got clearance for its MR-SAM programme in 2009 and the deliveries will begin depending on the progress of implementation.
The Navy programme is known as Long Range Surface to Air Missile system (LR-SAM) and would be set on warships.
The approval for the deal comes ahead of a possible visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel later this year.
Israel has been India's largest source of military hardware, supplying various weapon systems, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles, over the last few years.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin had visited India in November during which both sides had decided to "broadbase" their already close defence partnership.
Earlier this week, the director of Israel's Defense Export Controls Agency, a division of the defense ministry, had conveyed to some Israeli lawmakers that the country had planned to relax its regulations on export of arms and defence equipment.