Military deal with Israel off; DRDO to make anti-tank missile

Military deal with Israel off; DRDO to make anti-tank missile

The defence ministry has decided to exit a $500-million military deal with Israel to procure Spike anti-tank guided missiles, in the wake of DRDO's assurance that it would be able to develop similar class missiles in four years.

As a result, a tender (request for proposal) floated by the army to purchase the anti-tank guided missiles from a foreign vendor would be retracted soon, defence ministry sources said.

The proposal to acquire the missile system from state-run Rafael Advanced Defence Systems encountered roadblocks after the Israeli firm expressed reservations in ensuring full transfer of technology as per the provisions of the government's 'Make in India' initiative, sources said.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has been given four years to come out with similar missiles for the Indian Army.

DRDO's own anti-tank missile Nag, however, is still to be inducted after nearly three decades of R&D.

In anticipation of the contract, which was being negotiated for the last five years, the Israeli firm partnered with the Kalyani group to set up a Rs 70-crore production facility near Hyderabad. A spokesperson of the company denied any knowledge of the ministry's changed plans.

"Rafael has not been officially informed of any change in the decision to purchase Spike missiles. Spike is in use with 26 different militaries around the world, and was selected by India after a long and rigorous process," Ishai David, deputy spokesman for Rafael, told a newspaper in Jerusalem.

Spike MR missile is a 3rd generation, fire and forget, top attack, ATGM with a range of 2.5 km, which can operate both during the day and night. The army is currently using second generation ATGMs - Konkurs and Milan 2T - which do not have night-fighting capabilities.

In 2009, the MoD accepted the requirement of buying 321 ATGM launchers and 8,356 missiles, with 30% offsets and a transfer of technology clause. The Spike missiles underwent trials in 2011-12 after the USA initially denied technology transfer for Javelin. The defence ministry accepted the trial evaluation in 2013 and gave clearance for procuring from a single vendor.

The US government later tried to offer the Javelin ATGM with transfer of technology but India chose to go ahead with the Israeli system.

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