The forced cannibalisation of an old warship to provide a much-needed air defence system for India’s flagship aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya is a glaring example of the massive delays that have hit Indo-Israeli missile projects, leaving the armed forces vulnerable and scouting for options.The problems run deeper, with other platforms of the navy and the air force, too, suffering from a lack of air cover due to delays in missile developmental projects.
A Rs 2,600 crore project between Israel and the Defence Research & Development Organisation to develop a long-range surface-to-air missile ( LRSAM) system is behind schedule by almost four years, leaving the navy’s primary warship a virtual sitting duck for aerial attacks. The system was to have been ready by 2012 and fitted on board the Vikramaditya as its only defence against air assaults.
Another larger, Rs 10,000 crore medium-range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM) project signed in 2006 in collaboration with DRDO was to have been ready for the air force by the end of last year. This, too, has been plagued by delays, including a failed missile test that has now pushed the project back by at least three years.
The air force is likely to get the system only by 2017, leaving gaping holes in its defence cover that currently relies mainly on obsolete Russian systems.The blame game for the delays is on, with both sides holding each other responsible for slackness or lack of dedicated commitment. While the Israeli position has been that the systems and parts being supplied by DRDO do not meet quality standards, DRDO contends the developers in Israel promised more than they could deliver. A senior DRDO official said that “all efforts are on to expedite the projects to fulfill the need of the services at the earliest.”