India in April signed billion-dollar deals for the execution of two contracts to buy advanced medium-range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM) systems from Israel and 155mm/52-calibre tracked self-propelled artillery guns from South Korea.
The deals were finalised days before a report released on Monday put India in fifth place on the list of the world’s largest military spenders in 2016. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said in its annual report that the country’s defence expenditure grew by 8.5% last year to $55.9 billion.
As New Delhi loosens purse strings to scale up military capabilities to keep pace with China’s defence modernisation, here’s a look at the seven big weapons and systems that India has contracted or will soon place orders for:
MRSAM systems: India on April 6 inked deals worth $2 billion to buy advanced surface-to-air missile systems from Israel. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) will provide the Indian Army with advanced MRSAM systems to take down hostile aircraft and missiles. It is the single largest contract in Israel’s defence industry history. The MRSAM will allow the army to shoot down a wide range of aerial targets at ranges of up to 70 km. The MRSAM is the army version of the long-range surface-to-air missile (LR-SAM) systems deployed on Indian warships. LRSAM has been co-developed by India and Israel under a Rs 2,606-crore programme.
155mm/52-calibre tracked self-propelled guns: Private sector defence major Larsen & Toubro and South Korean firm Hanwha Techwin (HTW) on April 21 signed a $720-million contract for executing the artillery gun programme for the Indian Army. The army will be supplied 100 K9 VAJRA-T guns. L&T plans to begin production of the guns at Talegaon near Pune in Maharashtra and is expected to deliver them within three years. An improved version of HTW’s K9 Thunder, the K9 VAJRA-T gun has been tailored to meet the requirements of the India, including its desert formations.
M777 ultra-light howitzers: India sealed a $750-million deal with the United States for 145 ultra-light howitzers (M777), manufactured by BAE Systems, in November. The howitzers are being bought to increase the army’s high-altitude capabilities. It was the first deal to modernise the country’s artillery after the Bofors scam unfolded in the late 1980s. The army will get its first two 155 mm/39-calibre M777s in May. While 25 howitzers will be imported, the remaining 120 will be assembled in India by BAE Systems and Mahindra Defence. The M777s will be deployed in the northern and eastern sectors.
April 2017: India and South Korea signed MoU for 5 fleet support ships worth about Rs 10,000 crore. Larsen & Toubro signed a deal with a South Korean firm for building 100 self-propelled artillery guns worth Rs 5,000 crore
Rafale fighter jets: India signed a $8.7-billion deal with France for 36 Rafale warplanes in September to arrest the fall in the air force’s combat strength.
The Dassault Aviation-build fighter jets - equipped with latest weapons - will be delivered to the Indian Air Force between September 2019 and April 2022. The deal is crucial for the IAF which is grappling with a depleted fighter fleet. India has 33 fighter squadrons with 18 planes each but requires 45 squadrons to deal with a combined threat from China and Pakistan. The fighters will be equipped with Meteor beyond visual range missiles built by European defence major MBDA Missile Systems. The Meteor has a range of 150 km.
Anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM): India is on track to buy Israeli Spike ATGM systems, manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd. The $500-million deal could be signed in the coming months. India is negotiating the purchase of 321 launchers and 8,356 fire-and-forget missiles with the Israeli firm. The missile can destroy armoured vehicles and bunkers at a distance of 2.5 km and the army plans to equip more than 400 of its units with the third-generation ATGM systems. India chose the Israeli ATGM over US defence and aerospace firm Raytheon’s Javelin system more than three years ago.
Minesweepers: India is in the final stages of closing a $5.1-billion deal with South Korea for building 12 mine counter-measure vessels (MCMVs) in the country. The MCMVs will be built at Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) in collaboration with Busan-based Kangnam Corporation under the Make in India initiative. The construction of the first vessel is expected to begin in April 2018, with deliveries completed between April 2021 and April 2026. The navy will be without a minesweeper till 2021, with the existing fleet of six Soviet-origin vessels to be decommissioned by next year. Navies use vessels to secure harbours by locating and destroying mines.
Attack and heavy-lift helicopters: In 2015, India ordered $3.1 billion worth of 22 Boeing AH-64E Apache Longbow attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy-lift choppers. The deliveries are likely to begin in 2019. Boeing beat off competition from Russia, which had offered its Mi-28N Night Hunter helicopter gunship and the Mi-26 heavy-lift choppers to the IAF. The Chinooks will plug a crucial gap in the IAF’s heavy-lift capabilities as it currently relies on a solitary Mi-26 chopper to carry payloads to high altitudes. The IAF also urgently requires new attack helicopters.