India revives talks on buying Spike MR from Israel

India revives talks on buying Spike MR from Israel

India revives talks on buying Spike MR from Israel
The Indian Army has revived its bid to procure Spike man-portable anti-tank guided missiles, albeit in lesser quantity, from Israel at a time when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting India to boost bilateral relations.

Last year, the defence ministry cancelled a nearly Rs 3,200 crore ($500 million) tender to procure these missiles from Israel after the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) promised that it could come out with a similar missile.

But the Indian Army restarted the talks with the defence ministry to procure the Spike because even a timely delivery from the DRDO can't materialise before 2021-22.

"We look at the reduced number of Spikes from Israel. We need the MP-ATGM to meet the gap between the trial of the indigenous missile and its production. The Israeli missile would be acquired through a government-to-government route for faster procurement," said Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat.

In November 2017, the defence ministry exited from a tender to acquire Spike-MR missile system from Rafael Advanced Defence Systems after it encountered roadblocks because of the Israeli firm's reservations in ensuring full transfer of technology as per the provisions of the government's Make in India' initiative.

The DRDO chipped in with a promise of delivering similar missiles to the army in the next four years. The first trial is scheduled for July-August 2018.

The army's claims on the revival of the missile deal coincide with the first visit by an Israel prime minister in 15 years.

With Israel being one of the topmost suppliers of arms and ammunition to India, defence relations will figure at the talks between Netanyahu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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 2nd generation Atoms - Honkers 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. Spike missiles underwent trials in 2011-12 after the US 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 the transfer of technology but India chose to go ahead with the Israeli system.

The DRDO's own Nag anti-tank missile – one of the five missiles to be developed under A P J Abdul Kampala's integrated guided missile programmes – is yet to be inducted in the Army even after more than three decades.

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