Army set to receive Igla-S air defence systems partly assembled in India

India and Russia have resolved the issue of payment using national currencies, officials confirmed

Updated - May 15, 2024 10:18 pm IST

Published - May 15, 2024 09:36 pm IST - New Delhi

The Army is all set to begin receiving another set of Russian Igla-S very short range air defence systems (VSHORAD) by the end of May or early next month, filling a critical void in the its air defence requirements which has been repeatedly delayed. In another development, multiple sources confirmed that the payments issue between India and Russia that has held up critical payments for defence deals as well as payments has been resolved.

The Army is also set to receive the first of two Israeli Hermes-900 Medium Altitude Long Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) assembled by ADSTL in Hyderabad next month.

The Igla-S systems were contracted last year under the fourth tranche of Emergency Procurements (EP) and are being assembled by Adani Defence Systems And Technologies Limited (ADSTL) in India under technology transfer from Rosoboronexport, multiple official sources confirmed. Under this, the Army contracted 48 Igla-S launchers, 100 missiles, 48 night sights and one missile testing station under a ₹260 crore contract and deliveries are set to begin by end-May 2024, an official source said. The order was placed to ADSTL, officials stated.

The missile will be imported and some parts like sights, launcher, and battery will be assembled/manufactured here by Adani defence, another source in the know said.

Payments for major deals

As reported earlier, since the beginning of the war in Ukraine and Russia’s ouster from the international payment system, payments for major deals, especially defence, have been held up delaying important deals including the S-400 air defence systems. Efforts to pursue payments in national currencies through Rupee-Ruble trade have not eased the situation. However, that has now been resolved by the use of national currencies and widening Russian utilisation of Indian Rupees that have accumulated, two official sources independently confirmed.

As reported by The Hindu earlier, under EP-4, between September 2022 to September 2023, the Army concluded over 70 schemes worth nearly ₹11,000 crore. Similarly, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has concluded 64 contracts under EP-4 worth around ₹8,137 crore.

In 2021, the Army had inducted 24 launchers, 216 missiles and testing equipment under a contract signed in December 2020 also through EP. The EP route for procurement through the Vice Chiefs emergency financial powers was given to the Services for the first time after 2016 Uri terror attack. Under this, Services can procure weapon systems, including entirely new ones, up to ₹300 crores on an urgent basis without any further clearances. Under EP, deliveries should begin six months from contract signing and completed in a year.

A VSHORAD is the soldier’s last line of defence against enemy combat aircraft, helicopters and UAVs in the multilayered air defence network.

The VSHORAD deal is a much larger deal that the Army has been attempting to upgrade its shoulder fired air defence systems of its infantry. It began in 2010 and saw several rounds of trials and re-trials over the years but eventually got stuck. The Request for Proposal was issued in October 2010 for over 5000 missiles, 258 single launchers and 258 multi-launchers. The larger requirement will be met through indigenous and joint development routes being pursued.

An infrared based man-portable system is under development by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) which has already been tested several times. Under this DRDO developing a mounted version which has been tested, which will be further miniaturised, one of the sources cited above said. This will eventually meet the requirement of 300 launchers and 1800 missiles including that of Navy and IAF estimated to cost over ₹1,900 core.

Another proposal to procure Laser beam riding man-portable air defence systems got project sanction order given last year under the Make-2 procurement of the defence acquisition procedure for 200 launchers, 1,200 missiles valued at around ₹4,800 crore. The prototype testing is expected by end 2024, officials said.

Under the original VSHORAD deal, three contenders eventually made it to the trials - MBDA of France, Rosoboronexport of Russia and SAAB of Sweden. Eventually all three companies were declared technically complaint in 2017 and Igla-S was declared the lowest bidder in November 2018 though the deal was never signed. The deal also saw several allegations of deviations in procedures with some of the vendors sending protest letters.

Air Defence functions in three levels – gun/missile system, medium range and high range. Within this the Air Defence guns are of two types, AD Gun Missile system, AD self propelled guns. The Army is looking for AD guns in both the categories. In the medium segment it has the indigenous Akash SAM while Medium Range Surface to Air Missile System falls in the high range.

Hermes-900 UAV

Last year, all three services placed orders for two MALE UAVs each under EP. While the Army and Navy contracted the Hermes 900 manufactured by Elbit Systems, the IAF has procured the Heron Mk2 from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). In 2021, the Army had contracted four Heron-Mk2 UAVs which have since been inducted and deployed in the Eastern sector.

The ADSTL in partnership with Elbit Systems manufactures the complete carbon composite aerostructures for Hermes 900 and Hermes 450 in Hyderabad. The Navy received its first Hermes-900 UAV few months back.

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