Cancelling Spike order a mistake

The defence ministry has cancelled a negotiated USD $500 million deal with Israel for the Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) and has tasked the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to indigenously develop a man-portable version of a similar system. The Spike missile is a third generation, fire and forget, top attack ATGM. This implies that once locked on, it tracks its target and strikes enemy armour from the top where it is the weakest. The army had planned to equip all infantry and mechanized infantry battalions, operating in plains and deserts, with it.

As per reports, the deal was to be inked soon and in anticipation the Israeli company, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, had even set up a missile sub-systems manufacturing unit near Hyderabad in partnership with the Kalyani group. Rumours are that the deal was cancelled to push indigenous development.

The DRDO claims that since it has developed the Nag missile system it could also produce this in the next three to four years. The fact is even if it delays development or fails, there would be no action taken, nor would the original deal be revived; hence the only losers would be the army and its operational preparedness. It would lose a capability which is essential for operations solely to fulfil a development attempt by the DRDO.

The Nag had undergone two test firings this year, the last being in October, which the DRDO claimed were successful. A DRDO statement released after the trials stated, “With these two successful flight trials and the flight test conducted earlier in June in the peak of summer, the complete functionality of the Nag ATGM along with launcher system NAMICA (Nag Missile Carrier) has been established and marked the successful completion of development trials of the Nag Missile.”

The army on the other hand commented, “The developmental trials of the Nag ATGM carried out earlier this month have only proven partial success and many more user trials would be needed. The entire exercise of hot-and-cold region trials of the Nag missile will take more than a year to complete, after which the missile could be ready for production.” Thus, it appears that the army still has doubts on the functioning of the missile. It is essential that soldiers operating equipment in battle have complete faith on its functionality.

The army’s main objection to the missile remains its prohibitive cost and multiple technical shortcomings, including thermal sensors. Though the army’s overall demand is for 8,000 Nag missiles with an immediate requirement of 2,000, however it is only willing to place an initial order for 500 pieces.

The cancellation of the Spike deal has invited adverse comments from strategic experts. Operations in plains and desert sectors would involve mechanised formations. Thus anti-tank weapons will be an essential equipment with forces operating in the region. The cancellation of the deal puts Pakistan in an advantageous position. Pakistan employs a locally manufactured variant of the Chinese designed HJ-8 missile alongside US manufactured TOW missiles which can strike tanks and bunkers at a range of 3-4 kms, while missiles in service with India presently have a maximum range of two kms.

This decision by the MoD may have been prompted by two major factors, though no official announcement has been made. The first is hesitation on the part of the army to enhance orders for the Nag missile system in its present form, unless it clears trials planned in the future. Second has been a visualisation that by cancelling the contract, yet to be inked, the army would be compelled to accept future indigenous systems despite shortcomings, as against its desire to import battle hardened and tested equipment, as these options would be closed.

However, this decision by the defence minister is wrong. The reliability of the DRDO to produce a similar product within the desired time as also capability remains unconfirmed. Whether the Nag system itself would undergo the balance tests successfully and be suitable for introduction into service, only time would tell.

The army has a reputation of not accepting low quality equipment, as once inducted it would remain in service for decades, preventing any purchase of technically advanced systems. Further, as history has proved, dependence on DRDO has rarely paid off. Ideally, purchase with technology transfer would have been ideal as the DRDO could have a better base technology for further development of systems.

Giving the DRDO an opportunity with a time factor may imply giving undue support to home production. However warfare is not a game, since national prestige and lives are involved. The DRDO receives government funding and has immense laxity in research and development hence must be able to stand its ground on proven capabilities with comparable products from the world market. Only by facing open competition and securing contracts will it be able to enhance its development capabilities. Protectionism in any industry has led to its collapse, as has clearly been the case with DRDO, through the decades.

India has maintained reservations in every field and academic institutes of the government, except the army. To commence reservations even in defence manufacturing, by blocking imports, sets a wrong precedent which must be avoided. If maintaining a white elephant like the DRDO is beyond the government’s capabilities, then its assets should be sold to large business houses now venturing into the defence field.

While rumours are resurfacing that the government may consider limited procurement of the Spike ATGM, it will be a haphazard decision as the army will be saddled with multiple equipment for the same task. The defence minister needs to realise that she cannot push reservation into defence production. A wrong decision forced down the military’s throat can cause loss of lives; hence she needs to rethink before accepting advice from her non-military staff. The government must understand that it is responsible to ensure that the army always remains prepared for war and possesses requisite equipment.

The Statesman 

Trade group warns nixing missile deal threatens Indian-Israeli relations

India’s reported plans to scrap a half-billion-dollar deal with Israel for anti-tank missiles will have negative repercussions not only on defense contracts between the two countries, but throughout the market, according to an Indian-Israeli commerce organization.

The large sale has been lauded by Israeli officials as a major milestone in trade and military relations with India, giving its reported cancellation extra significance, said David Keynan, vice chairman of the Federation of Indo-Israeli Chambers of Commerce.

“It is a very noteworthy deal. It will have an impact not only on defense trade, but on all trade,” Keynan told The Times of Israel Tuesday, speaking over the phone from Bangalor, India.

He noted that defense exports often act as a “catalyst” for further trade.

On Monday, Indian media outlets reported that the country’s defense ministry had decided to scrap a $500 million deal to buy Spike anti-tank guided missiles from Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems in favor of developing such missiles domestically.

The cancellation of the agreement has yet to be officially confirmed. A Rafael spokesperson said the company was continuing in its efforts as normal, until it is notified of a change.

The Spike deal was not just words on paper, but had already reached more advanced stages of implementation. Rafael had begun preparations for delivering the missile, opening a production facility in India in August with its local partner, the Indian industrial giant Kalyani Group.

The opening of the missile production facility this summer came weeks after a visit to Israel by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi — the first official visit to Israel by a sitting Indian prime minister.

In a speech at its inauguration, Rafael CEO Maj. Gen. (res.) Yoav Har Even said the factory “is another expression of the strong cooperation between Israel and India in general and of Rafael as a strategic ally of India in particular.”

According to Keynan, whose organization facilitates trade between India and Israel, the reports that the massive deal will be called off sparked concern among businesspeople from both countries.

“I have already received dozens of calls about it,” he said.

Israelis expressed concern that the deal might indicate that agreements with Indian companies are not as solid as they seem. And Indians were worried that in the fallout, Israelis might indeed have those fears and be less interested in making deals in India.

Keynan, who has lived in India since 2003, noted that his commerce group is not government-affiliated and was not involved in the Spike agreement or any other defense deals.

While exports to India have increased over the years — New Delhi is currently Israel’s 10th-largest trade partner — they haven’t been doing so at the same rate as Israel’s exports in general, according to Keynan.

From 2015 to 2016 bilateral trade grew by 0.85 percent, according to the Indian Embassy in Israel.

“It’s slower than we’d like to see,” he said.

The exact value of Israeli exports to India is difficult to calculate as not all the figures are publicly available, notably defense exports, which make up a significant percentage of the total. However, Keynan estimated that in the past year Israel exported approximately $5 billion to India in goods and services, some $1.5 billion of that in defense trade.

According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel also ships approximately $1 billion worth of diamonds to India each year, along with approximately $1 billion in chemicals. The rest comes in the form of agriculture products, non-military technology, industrial products and other assorted goods and services.

According to the Indian Express news outlet, the cancellation of the Spike deal was done in order to protect the government’s Defense Research and Development Organization, which is working on creating its own anti-tank guided missile.

Indian military sources told the website that DRDO had already produced a few varieties of anti-tank guided missiles and that was “confident” it could produce one on par with the Israeli Spike.

The Indian army, which currently uses an inferior anti-tank missile that does not work well at night, reportedly expressed concerns that the decision to scrap the Spike deal would negatively affect its preparedness, and that there was “operational urgency” for the Israeli missile.

A spokesperson for Rafael noted the “Spike missile, which is in use in 26 countries, was chosen by India after a lengthy process, in which the system was inspected and successfully performed in a wide variety of scenarios.”

This year was a major one for defense cooperation between Israel and India. In May and April, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) announced two deals with New Delhi for missile defense systems, which were together worth over $2.5 billion.

Earlier this month, the Indian Air Force and special forces also took part in the Israeli Blue Flag air exercise, in what was seen as a sign of strengthening ties between New Delhi and Jerusalem. In June, a month before Modi’s visit, India helped sponsor the renowned Israeli Defense Expo in Tel Aviv.

And in May, three Indian Navy ships docked in Haifa for an official visit, marking 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two counties.

Times Of Israel

Govt cancels massive anti-tank guided missile deal with Israel, asks DRDO to ‘Make in India’

The Union government is reported to have cancelled a planned massive USD 500 million deal with Israel for Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM).

Spike anti-tank missile

Spike anti-tank missile

The Indian Express newspaper reported on Monday that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has instead asked the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to indigenously develop a Man-Portable ATGM for the Army.

The report said the Spike MR missile is a 3rd generation, fire and forget, top attack, ATGM. It has an operational range of 2.5 kilometres and is capable of being used both during the day and night.

The missile deal had come to be seen as an important milestone in growing Indo-Israel defence ties – it was at the stage of Request for Proposal (RFP) and on the verge of being inked following completion of price negotiations with Rafael Advanced Defence Systems of Israel last year.

The report said Rafael had set up a missile sub-systems manufacturing unit near Hyderabad last year in partnership with Kalyani group ahead of the finalisation of the deal.

Government sources said the MoD decided to cancel the planned deal in a bid to push indigenous development of weapon systems by DRDO.

It may be recalled that India had earlier said no to an offer by US-based Raytheon-Lockheed Martin for Javelin ATGM and decided to go ahead with the Israeli weapon system.

The DRDO, which has in the past developed the successful Nag and Anamika ATGMs, plans to hand over to the Army a 3rd generation MPATGM within the next three to four years.

To develop an MPATGM, the organisation would also not require any transfer of technology, sources said.

The move, however, is seen as a setback to the Army’s modernisation programme. The Army had supported the Spike deal, saying the weapon system would provide it with major capabilities along the Line of Control with Pakistan.

Times Now

Major boost to ties: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu coming in mid-January

India is preparing to host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in mid-January in what would signal qualitative upgrade of partnership, coming less than a year after Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel.

This would be the second trip by an Israeli PM to India, the first being by Ariel Sharon in 2003 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was heading the government. Defence, counter-terror, development, research, trade partnerships and developments in West Asia are expected to dominate Netanyahu’s agenda on the occasion of 25 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Both sides are preparing for a possible visit by the Israeli PM in the middle of January and exact dates are being worked out, persons familiar with the matter indicated. Joint defence production could be a key item on the agenda, hinted one of the persons quoted above. Current developments in West Asia that has split the region into two camps will be a crucial item on the agenda of the Summit meet. India, on its part, is expected to emphasise on a two-state solution which allows Israel and Palestine to coexist.

Sharon’s trip — the firstever by an Israeli PM here — was cut short by a terrorist attack back home. This July, Modi became the first Indian PM to visit the Jewish state. “You may have seen the pictures,” Netanyahu recalled while speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in September.

“We were on a beach in Hadera. We rode together in a jeep outfitted with a portable desalination device that some thriving Israeli entrepreneur invented. We took off our shoes, waded into the Mediterranean and drank sea water that had been purified only a few minutes earlier. We imagined the endless possibilities for Israel, India — for all humanity.” Modi publicly invited to Netanyahu to visit his country “at a mutually convenient time”, during a July 5 press conference in Jerusalem.

“This is a deeply moving moment for me, both personal, and also in national and international terms,” Netanyahu had said at that time. “I have a feeling that today, India and Israel are changing our world, and maybe, changing parts of the world. Because this is a cooperation, it’s a marriage really made in heaven, but we’re implementing it here on earth.”

Strengthen Ties 
Strengthening the relationship with Israel which is strategic and mutually beneficial for trade and investment makes sense. The joint statement between India and Israel earlier this year stressed on combating growing radicalisation and terrorism, while underscoring reliance on dialogue and restraint. At the same time, New Delhi is not taking sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and is committed to resolution which is democratic. That’s a reflection of our maturity in foreign policy.

Economic Times

Indian commandos in Israel for military drills

India is looking to boost its special forces capabilities, including cross-border counter- terrorist operations, during a two-week military drill with the air forces of Israel and eight other nations in what is the largest such exercise in Israeli history.

The 45-member Indian contingent, including 16 Garud commandos, led by Group Captain Maluk Singh, is also closely working with Israels select special forces during the Blue Flag aerial training exercise with focus on learning what makes them excel at special operations.

“We would look to learn and share with them the procedures followed in mutual interoperability, counter- terrorist operations, method of inducting and training people and try and compare to see if a course correction is required at our end,” an Indian officer leading the Garud commandos told PTI.

“The Israelis are more battle-hardened as they have more experience in cross border operations and we can learn from their experiences,” the officer said.

In a rare move, while contingents of other participating nations in the massive “war drill” feature fighter aircraft, the Indian Air Force (IAF) decided to send C-130J Super Hercules aircraft along with Garud commandos who will be training for a week each with Israeli Air Forces elite units – Unit 5101 (more commonly referred to as the Shaldag Commando unit) and Unit 669 (Airborne Rescue And Evacuation Unit).

The Garud commandos started training with Unit 669 earlier this week on Sunday and would be moving to the Palmachim Air Force base next week to train with the Shaldag Unit.

Unit 669 was initially mandated to extract and provide medical treatment to downed (and possibly injured) pilots beyond enemy lines. However, in later years the unit also participated in extraction of soldiers of other arms of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), especially Sayeret (Special Forces) fighters in operations beyond enemy lines and seamen in distress.

Shaldags declared mission is to deploy undetected into combat and hostile environments to conduct special reconnaissance, establish assault zones or airfields, while simultaneously conducting air traffic control and commando actions.

Its operators undergo the longest training phase of any unit in the IDF, lasting 22 months, and training has a heavy emphasis on navigation.

The mandated role of Garud Commando Force, whose motto – Defence by Offence – matches closely with the task assigned to these two special units of the Israeli Air Force.

“They are very strong as far as special forces are concerned. This is one area we are definitely looking to learn from their experience”, Maluk Singh told PTI.

The Blue Flag drill is a biannual exercise designed to strengthen Israels military cooperation internationally. This is the first time India is participating in the drill, along with the US, France, Germany, Italy, Greece and Poland. An unidentified eighth nation is also said to be participating in the military exercise as per local media.

Israel is among the top three to four arms suppliers to India with sales ranging from Phalcon AWACS (airborne warning and control systems) and Searcher, Heron and Harop UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) to Aerostat and Green Pine radars, Barak anti-missile defence and several types of missiles and laser-guided bombs.

The Blue Flag exercise being held at Uvda Air Force Base in Israels south presents a platform for sharing of knowledge, combat experience and in improving operational capability of the participating nations, a spokesperson for the IDF said.

As part of the exercise, foreign crews will practice handling the threat of advanced surface-to-air antiaircraft missiles, with the Israeli Air Forces so-called Red Squadron playing the role of the enemy. The exercise will include flights in formation with planes from different countries, with no countries opposing each other.

Lt Col Nadav, Commander of the 133rd Squadron (Knights of the Twin Tail), which operates Falcon (F-15) fighter jets and is leading the exercise, described it as a “significant milestone in the relationship between the Israeli Air Force and international air forces”.

“This exercise will allow us to continue cooperating with these forces in the future as well,” he said.

Close to a 100 aircraft and more than a thousand support crew and pilots from the visiting air forces are taking part in the drill taking place in the Ovda Base north of the southern coastal resort city of Eilat, while officers and attaches from nearly 40 other countries are expected to attend the exercise which the Israeli Air Force has described as aiming to “simulate extreme combat scenarios and coalition flights as realistically as possible”.

The IDF also said that Israeli squadrons of F-15, F-16I and F-16C/D jets will be used, alongside transport aircraft, helicopters and unmanned drones, during the exercise.

Greece, Poland and the US will drill using their own F- 16s, France will use 2000D fighter jets, Germany will deploy Eurofighter Typhoon jets, and Italy will use multirole fighters while India will use C-130Js.

Israel also said “electronic warfare” will be used during the drills but no details were shared. According to the Israeli army, the goal of the exercise is to both improve technical ability and to strengthen the “diplomatic cooperation between the countries”.
The Blue Flag exercise was started in 2013 by Israel but its third edition has attracted huge attention given the massive participation.