New Delhi: Military ties with Israel continue to be on an upswing with Indian Navy chief, and also chairman, joints chief of staff, Admiral Sureesh Mehta, departing for Israel on a four-day visit on Thursday.
Admiral Mehta is scheduled to hold talks with top Israeli military officials.
Admiral Mehta's visit comes in the backdrop of a meeting of an Indo-Israeli joint working group on defence earlier in the week, which decided to intensify its focus on joint R&D projects.
In 2007 Israel became the world's fourth largest arms exporter, mainly on the back of massive military contracts with India. According to Israeli government sources India remains Israel's main defence client for the fifth year in a row. For the last few years, Tel Aviv has remained New Delhi's second largest arms supplier, after Russia.
According to Pinchas Bucharis, director general, Israel's ministry of defence, Israeli arms exports are mainly concentrated on passive systems, such as radar systems, drones, surveillance that are intended for defence and not attack, unlike systems supplied by countries such as the United States, Russia and France.
Israeli sources point out that after making a cautious start in 1992, when the two countries resumed diplomatic relations, India has ended up purchasing $1.6 billion worth of weaponry in 2007 from Israel.
Discussions with Adm Mehta are expected to further the already burgeoning military ties between the two countries.
The main joint projects currently under way include the Rs10,000-crore joint venture to develop an advanced 'Barak' medium-range surface-to-air missile system. Israel has already supplied an earlier version of the system to the Indian Navy after India failed to develop the indigenous SAM Akash in time for induction onboard Indian Navy ships.
The Akash system has just completed its final round of user trials for the Indian Air force, which has apparently expressed satisfaction with the results, though it is still to evaluate final results from the test firings in December 2007.
Other missile systems on order, or under negotiation, include Python and Derby air-to-air missiles and Crystal Maze PGMs to Delilah-II air-launched cruise missiles and Gabriel-III sea-skimming anti-ship missiles.
UAVs, an area of Israeli expertise, have already been inducted by the armed forces in sizeable numbers. New developments may include 'combat' versions as well as ship-launched rotary drones.