The defence ministry on Monday approved arms procurement proposals worth over Rs 860 crore, which include additional Israeli Barak-I missiles for Indian warships as well as European equipment to defuse or destroy underwater enemy mines.
Chairing the high-powered defence acquisitions council (DAC) for the first time since he took over the additional charge of the defence ministry on March 13, finance minister Arun Jaitley directed officials to expedite clearance of several pending military modernization proposals after reviewing them.
The clearance for the procurement of over 100 more Barak-I missiles for around Rs 500 crore comes ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s impending visit to Israel in July, which will be the first by an Indian PM since bilateral diplomatic relations were established in 1992.
As was earlier reported by TOI, India in February has also cleared a Rs 16,830 crore project between DRDO and Israel Aerospace Industries to develop the next-generation Barak-8 medium-range surface to air missile (MR-SAM) systems for the Army.
This project follows the two similar DRDO-IAI programmes already underway for MR-SAMs for Indian warships (initial cost was Rs 2,606 crore) and IAF air defence squadrons (Rs 10,076 crore). Moreover, IAF is now also getting set to take part in its first-ever air combat exercise in Israel, which is called “Blue Flag”, later this year.
The procurement proposal for the additional Barak-I missiles, cleared by the DAC on Monday, is for the earlier version of the anti-missile defence systems fitted on 14 Indian warships after the 1999 Kargil conflict. While this system has an interception range of 9-km, the Barak-8 system has a kill range of 70-km against enemy aircraft, drones and missiles. As of now, the Barak-8 system has been fitted on the three new Kolkata-class destroyers.
Israel is among the top three arms suppliers to India, notching up sales worth almost $1 billion every year. The acquisitions range from Phalcon AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) and Searcher, Heron and Harop UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to Aerostat and Green Pine radars and several types of missiles & laser-guided bombs.
Another big deal in the works is for two more Phalcon AWACS, which are to be mounted on Russian IL-76 military aircraft, to add to the earlier three already in service with the IAF and four more Aerostat radars for well over $1 billion.
The other proposals cleared by the DAC include the Rs 311 crore purchase of “clip-on suites” to counter mines at sea, as also the procurement of “expendable bathy thermograph systems” under the foreign military sales programme from the US. The thermograph systems basically check temperatures at various water depths to ascertain the range of sonars meant to detect enemy submarines.