An agreement is expected to be inked shortly between the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and MBDA Missile Systems to design and co-produce SR SAMs (short range surface-to-air missiles) even as the European company seeks to improve its footprint in India.
“We are considering India as a long-term strategic partner and we are increasing our footprint from the commercial and industrial point of view,” head of MBDA in India Loic Piedvache told The Hindu during a tour conducted for a group of Indian journalists at MBDA’s facilities in Schrobenhausen, near Munich, in Germany and Lostock in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Piedvache sought to underline the importance MBDA was attaching to India by pointing out that for it was for the first time that the company had agreed to produce a brand new product (SR SAM) outside the European countries. Apart from co-designing and co-developing, MBDA would transfer the technology. “We want to be seen as an Indian player and it is not mere buyer-seller cooperation,” he added.
During the tour, MBDA showcased the production and integration facilities of some of its hi-tech tactical missiles that were being offered to India.
Mr. Loic said MBDA was also awaiting the final approval of Indian authorities for its ASRAAM, an air-to-air Within Visual Range (WVR) missile for integration with the Indian Air Force’s Jaguar. He said MBDA’s priority was to conclude some of the request for proposals (RFP)s for which it had bid, including Mistral and PARS 3 LR, for augmenting India’s Very Short Range Air Defense Systems (VSHORAD).
Besides the RFPs, the European company had made 30 technical presentations to Indian authorities on various missiles in response to RFIs of the Ministry of Defence. They include the next-generation Beyond Visual Range Meteor air-to-air missile, hi-tech Dual Mode Brimstone, an air support weapon that was deployed in frontline operations by the Royal Air Force in Afghanistan and Libya, and the missile Spear.
While PARs 3 LR, Taurus as well as high explosive processing and integration facilities were showcased at Schrobenhausen, six other missiles, including Meteor, ASRAAM, Brimstone and Spear were highlighted at Lostock.
Rob Thornley, Sales and Business Development Executive at MBDA UK Ltd, termed Meteor as a “game changer” in air-to-air combat. It has been developed to meet the needs of six European nations – U.K., Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Sweden. The production of the missile has begun and Sweden would be the first country to acquire it – some time next year – followed by France.
Describing how air-to-air combat had changed drastically over the years, Mr. Thornley said deploying WVR (12-20 km) dominance weapons was one of key elements enabling the ability to strike first. He said ASRAAM, the WVR weapon, was used in Afghanistan and Libya and that they were “getting very good reliability reports”.
Similarly, the Dual Mode Brimstone could be used to destroy a range of targets such as fast-moving tanks, vehicles, armoured cars as well naval vessels, while ensuring that there was no collateral damage. In Afghanistan and Libya, where the missile was put to extensive use, the Brimstone displayed such precision strike that in one case, it just took out radar on the roof without causing any damage to the building.