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Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM)

The Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM) joint venture [JV] involved Israel Aerospace Industries and Rafael teaming up with India's Defence Research and Development Organisation and the Indian Air Force to build medium range surface-to-air missiles (MRSAMs). The deal, worth Rs10,400 crore, would be India's biggest defence JV with a foreign country. The DRDO is a partner in the project, but will get only a third (Rs 3,000 crore) of the Rs 10,000 crore. IAI gets the bulk of it, over Rs 7,000 crore.

DRDO had already developed indigenous air defence systems, such as the Trishul and the Akash. The latter did not fit the bill for the MR-SAM project as its range was only 30 km, while the services had posited the requirement for a missile system with a range of 70 km. MR-SAM systems would be deployed for the security of the National Capital Region as well as for securing nuclear installations across the country.

The Israeli firm IAI was already blacklisted by Government of India, after finding it indulged in commission pay off in Barak Missile Deal in 2000. CBI had lodged FIR against then Indian defence minister, George Fernandes, Former Chief of the Indian Navy, Admiral Sushil Kumar, Suresh Nanda along with his son, Sanjeev Nanda and others regarding defence deal to procure seven Barak systems at a total cost $199.50 million and 200 missiles at a cost of $69.13 million On October 23, 2000. It is alleged that 3.5 percent commission was given to those accused in that earlier deal.

In July 2007 the Cabinet Committee on Security gave the formal clearance for the largest-ever joint venture India has undertaken in the defence sector with any foreign partner. The proposed missile, a new generation Barak missile, was to have around 70-km range. In May 2008 the government formally put on hold India's largest-ever military joint venture with a foreign country - the Rs 10,000 crore effort with Israel to build a medium-range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM) for the Air Force.

India and Israel agreed to expand their already considerable missile development cooperation with an even longer-range version of their extended-range Barak ship defense system, this time for the Indian Air Force. The countries were expected to sign an add-on development contract by 2008, following the conclusion of the memorandum of agreement between Indian defense research authorities and prime contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). By one account the new land-based air defense system would feature a range of 150 kilometers [other reports state half this, which is more than double that of the supersonic, vertically launched Barak-8, or Barak NG (New Generation) being developed for the Indian Navy].

Israel and India agreed to a cooperative program to extend the range of the Barak-8/Barak-NG (Barak-8 is the Israeli Naval Terminology, Barak-NG is the Indian Naval name) naval missile. This new system is to be a land-based variant with a range at least twice that of the Barak-8/Barak-NG's 70 to 80 km, therefore the new missile is expected to fly at least 150 km. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) representing Israel and the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) representing India were expected to sign a memorandum of agreement early in 2008 as the two primary contractors.

In an unusual development, in August 2008 the Central Vigilance Commission gave the go-ahead for a massive joint venture with two Israeli defence firms that were under investigation for kickbacks in the Barak missile scandal. The CVC clearance for the project - it had been on hold since June 2007 despite approval from the cabinet committee on security - caused some surprise in official circles.

But the Indian Government signed an agreement with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) on 27 February 2009 to jointly develop a Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM) with DRDO. The UPA government signed Rs10,000 crore defence deal with Israel to purchase medium-range surface-to-air missiles, ignoring the 'Akash' developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization and Bharat Electronics Ltd Akash has a range of 27km, while MRSAM has a range of about 70km.

On 31 March 2009 IAI released an official press statement rejecting the claims that it purposely withheld notification of the deal to the Israel Securities Authority. "Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd. (IAI) does not release general information regarding transactions with its customers, except for such information as is required to be reported by law. Lately, various articles have appeared in the media regarding a large transaction for the sale of weapon systems to the country of a foreign customer, which have included information that is incorrect and biased, and which have originated, apparently, from entities that are trying to harm IAI's business ties with this customer.

"It was published, among other things, that notification regarding a large transaction for the sale of weapon systems to a foreign customer was delayed until receipt of the advance payment for such transaction, and this on the claim that representatives of that country's government requested that the notification be delayed. IAI's management wishes to make it clear that these claims and articles have no basis in reality and, in any event, have not emanated from IAI."

Nova Integrated Systems, a Tata-IAI joint venture, is integrating the MRSAM. Several officials in the defence ministry were said to be "baffled" as to how a private-sector firm had been nominated as the integrator for the missile system. In India, all missile systems are integrated in public-sector units, usually Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL). DRDO had suggested BDL as the integrator for the MRSAM, with the Israelis supplying the seeker and some radar components, and DRDO making the airframe, servos, and propulsion.

The MRSAM JV would initially build two regiments of 36 launchers for the IAF. The missile launcher and the command post would be made in India, with the rest of the complex system - including the missile itself - to be made in Israel. IAI will reportedly supply India with 2,000 missiles capable of intercepting enemy aircraft and missiles within a 70-kilometer range. The proposed MRSAM, to replace the old Pechora missiles of the IAF. DRDO would station at least 25 of its scientists in Israel for the project. The first prototype was planned in about two and a half years [around 2011] and the development would be completed in five years from its start.

The IAF funded 90 percent of the project, while 10 per cent is funded by the DRDO for the development phase of the MR-SAM. Signed in March 2009, the contract is for 18 fire units (each equipped with 24 missiles) that must be delivered by October 2016. Each fire unit comes with a radar, three missile launchers, and a sophisticated Combat Management System. Since a missile has a limited shelf life, additional orders for missiles will continue to be placed as they are consumed. The MR-SAM uses the same missile as the LR-SAM to protect its air bases. The ground infrastructure, however, is far more complex.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) said the 10 November 2014 full system intercept test validated all elements of the locally developed air and missile defense system and transitions the program into operational testing as it ramps up to serial production. The system is now operational, said Boaz Levy, executive vice president and general manager of IAIs Systems, Missiles and Space Group.

All components of sea- and land-based systems were validated under realistic threat conditions, Levy said of the vertically launched intercepting system designed for persistent defense against saturation attacks by long-range missiles and a spectrum of air-breathing threats. Briefing reporters, Levy said he expected Barak-8 partners in Israel and India to declare initial operational capability (IOC) in a number of months.




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