Union Cabinet approves export of Akash missile system

Union Cabinet approves export of Akash missile system

The Akash missile systems have over 96 per cent indigenous components and the weapon can hit targets at a range of 25 km

Surface to Air Missile AKASH. Credit: PTI File Photo

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the export of indigenous Aakash surface-to-air missiles to friendly countries with the aim of boosting India’s defence export that remained at a minuscule level for years.

The move comes four decades after defence scientists led by then DRDO chief APJ Abdul Kalam proposed developing five indigenous ballistic missile systems including Aakash to make India self-reliant in missile technology.

With a range of 25 km, the Akash air defence missile was inducted by the Indian Air Force in 2014 and by the Indian Army a year later.

The export version of Akash will be different from the system currently deployed with Indian armed forces.

“After its induction, interest has been shown in Akash missile by many friendly countries during international exhibitions Def-Expo and Aero India shows. The Cabinet approval will facilitate Indian manufactures to participate in the RFI/RFP (tendering process) issued by various countries,” a defence ministry spokesperson said in a statement.

So far, Indian defence exports were limited to the supply of parts and components as export of big platforms was minimal. The Cabinet decision, according to an official, would help the country improve its defence products and make them globally competitive.

Though India remains the world's second-largest importer of arms, its position as an exporter comes at the 23rd spot out of the world’s top 25 arms exporters, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute that tracks arms trade around the world. Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Mauritius are the three biggest recipients of Indian arms.

A panel comprising the Ministers of Defence and External Affairs and the National Security Advisor has also been set up to approve high-value platforms like missile, aircraft and radars on a case-by-case basis.

Besides Akash, interest has been shown for coastal surveillance systems, radars and air platforms. After successfully exporting Dhruv advanced lightweight helicopters to a handful of nations, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited now plans to woo other countries to buy the home-made Tejas light combat aircraft, Dhruv ALH and its armed version, Rudra.

The Cabinet decision comes ten months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi set up a target of $5 billion worth of defence export in the next five years.