After delays, Army Air Defence looks at leap in modernisation

Army has contracted Igla-S systems from Russia under emergency procurement

October 16, 2021 07:51 pm | Updated 07:51 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Indigenously built short-range surface-to-air missile Aakash on display at the Manekshaw Centre in New Delhi. File

Indigenously built short-range surface-to-air missile Aakash on display at the Manekshaw Centre in New Delhi. File

After several delays in its modernisation process, the Army Air Defence (AD) is looking at major progress in the next few months in terms of deals and trials. These include additional indigenous Akash Surface to Air Missile (SAM) systems, the under development Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM) and Igla-S Very Short Range Air Defence (VSHORAD) Systems from Russia, according to defence officials.

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The Army had contracted a small number of Igla-S systems from Russia under emergency procurement through the Vice Chiefs emergency financial powers and deliveries were expected soon, two officials confirmed.

“The Army has two Akash regiments in service and negotiations are on for two more. Contract is expected to be concluded by January,” an official said.

Akash is the indigenously designed and developed medium range SAM system with a range of 25 km.

In addition, the Army variant of the MRSAM, being jointly developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), is nearing induction with the final stage of trials scheduled to be held in the next few months. “It’s in the penultimate state of induction,” the official said.

AD functions at three levels – gun/missile system, medium range and high range. Within this, the AD guns are of two types- AD Gun Missile system and the AD self-propelled guns. The Army is looking for guns in both the categories. In the medium segment, it has the indigenous Akash SAM, while MRSAM fits in the high range. The maiden launch of MRSAM Army Version was conducted in December last.

Last month, the first deliverable Firing Unit of the MRSAM System was handed over to the Indian Air Force (IAF), which can engage targets up to a range of 70 km. It comprises missiles, combat management system, mobile launcher systems, advanced long range radar and support vehicles.

Igla-S deal

The repeatedly delayed Igla-S VSHORAD deal, which has seen several controversies over the last few years, was on track and close to conclusion, the two officials stated. The contract should be concluded by January, one of them said.

The Igla-S bid from Rosoboronexport of Russia was declared the L1 in the tender in 2018 from among three contenders. Following the other contenders, the others being MBDA of France and SAAB of Sweden, lodged a protest after Igla-S was declared the winner. Further, SAAB lodged an official complaint, its fourth letter, detailing procedural violations in the evaluation process.

The Request for Proposal (RFP) was first issued in October 2010 for over 5,000 missiles, 258 single-launchers and 258 multi-launchers with an estimated cost of ₹6,400 crore and trials began in 2012.

Air Defence guns

On October 14, the Army issued the Request For Proposal (RFP) for 220 Air Defence guns and 1,41,576 rounds of ammunition to be procured under the Buy and Make category of the acquisition procedure.

Within this, 25 guns and 44,440 rounds of ammunition would be procured under the Buy portion and the remaining under the Make portion of the contract, as per the RFP. The last date for submitting bids is January 6, 2022.

The Self-Propelled Air Defence Gun Missile System (SPAD-GMS) deal, in which K-30 Biho (Flying Tiger) of South Korean company Hanwha Defense was shortlisted two years back, had been stuck since following objections from Russia over the selection of Hanwha Defense. There was no progress on the deal, the officials noted.

QRSAM project

In another category, while a global tender to procure Quick Reaction SAMs (QRSAMs) has been delayed, an indigenous project by the DRDO is moving ahead. “The DRDO has presented the proof of concept, and so far, three trials have been conducted,” one of the officials cited above said.

While the Army and the IAF have similar AD systems, the later has static ground-based systems. On the contrary, the Army needs mobile systems for its formations and also because its locations are located much closer to the border that bring in additional challenges and requirements.

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