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Israel eyes big arms deals with longtime buyer India

Dec. 2, 2013 at 1:52 PM   |   Comments

TEL AVIV, Israel, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- India, long one of the biggest markets for Israel's defense industry, is expected soon to finalize the purchase of the Barak anti-aircraft missile built by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and is reportedly considering the company's Spike ant-tank missile as well.

Meantime, India's state-run Defense Research and Development Organization is getting ready to collaborate with Israelis companies to produce man-portable high-tech battlefield systems for Indian troops, a market with a reported potential of $3 billion.

Israel Aerospace Industries, flagship of Israel's defense sector, won a $1.1 billion contract with the Indian navy in 2009 to provide the advanced Barak-8 tactical air-defense missile for its warships.

The Indian army is jointly funding a project to adapt the Barak-8 into a multi-purpose weapons system.

The sale of the actual missiles was put on hold by Indian authorities because of an investigation into alleged corruption involving Israel Aerospace Industries, the prime contractor and the flagship of Israel's defense industry, and the then Indian defense minister, George Fernandes.

He has been indicted following the probe by India's Central Bureau of Investigation, but the agency has not released any findings regarding state-owned IAI.

In March 2012, India blacklisted Israel Military Industries, then state-owned and now being privatized, barring it from bidding on Indian defense contracts for 10 years on suspicion of involvement in a 2009 corruption scandal.

India's leading arms purchasing authority, the Defense Acquisition Council, announced Nov. 11 that it had referred the Barak deal to an internal committee for evaluation.

However, the U.S. weekly Defense News reported that the CBA is likely to close the case against the Israeli company and proceed with the Barak purchase.

The Indian navy, which is being heavily expanded to counter China's growing naval power, has been pressing the Defense Ministry to clear the Barak missile purchase because it had three warships equipped with the Barak system that have no missiles.

The navy had requested the purchase of some 300 Baraks to arm the Brahmaputra-class guided missile frigates Ranvir, Brahmaputra, Betwa and Beas at a cost of around $100 million.

These warships are intended for anti-surface warfare in the Indian Ocean, a strategic shipping route that carries much of China's oil supplies from the Persian Gulf.

The supersonic Baraks, with a range of around 44 miles, are designed to shoot down aircraft and missiles.

New Delhi is also reported to be considering the acquisition of Rafael's Spike anti-tank guided missile, or the U.S. FGM-148 fire-and-forget Javelin built by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

Defense News says both systems will be discussed by Indian's Defense Acquisition Council when it convenes next.

The weekly reported that purchasing the Spike was put on hold in April. But the Indian army, currently short of advanced anti-tank guided missiles, is now pressing hard to purchase a third-generation variant in a deal that would include 8,356 missiles and 321 launchers.

Other sources reported that plans to acquire 6,000 man-portable Javelins were put on hold because Washington was reluctant to agree to a transfer of technology so India could build up its indigenous defense industry and manufacture the missiles in large numbers.

The Pentagon finally agreed to a deal in September, probably spurred by the need to boost arms exports amid major cuts in domestic defense spending.

It's not clear what provisions regarding technology transfer IAI has made with New Delhi, but exports are as crucial for Israel's defense industry as they are for the Americans.

Israeli electronics companies are currently understood to be consulting with India's Defense and Research and Development Organization to manufacture a range of systems for battlefield management, command and control, sensors and weapons for New Delhi's Futuristic Infantry Soldier As A System program, known as F-INSAS.

The DRDO and the Israelis have agreed to jointly develop portable command-and-control, or C2, systems for the Indian army.

This will include an encrypted computer and monitor able to operate in the India's diverse weather conditions, ranging from the heat and humidity of the southern regions to the icy storms of the northern mountains bordering longtime rival Pakistan.

The C2 system is being designed to eventually link up 1.1 million Indian soldiers deployed across the vast Asian subcontinent.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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