Yet another multi-billion dollar defence deal with the United States is in the works.
New Delhi is in discussions with Washington to buy anti-tank guided missile systems worth $1.8 billion (Rs 9,900 crore) to arm its troops with the capability to destroy enemy armour.
The Indian Army is projected to deploy 8,356 Javelin missiles and 321 launchers to knock out enemy tanks from a distance of 2.5 km - it had first tested the capabilities of the missile in October 2009 during joint military exercises with the US.
The outcome of the latest tests of the missile - a joint venture between US defence firms Raytheon and Lockheed Martin - is expected to give fresh impetus to the proposed acquisition.
The fire-and-forget Javelin missile acquired and engaged targets up to 4.75 km, nearly twice the range requirement of the Indian Army, during tests conducted at Eglin Air Base in Florida.
"The US and Indian armies will be conducting Yudh Abhyas exercise at Fort Bragg in the US in May 2013. This may present another opportunity for Indian soldiers to fire the Javelin…The enhanced range performance is a critical milestone for us," Brad Barnard, senior manager, Raytheon Javelin International Growth, told HT at Aero India 2013.
The enhanced capability indicates that the one-man portable missile can potentially be used in both vehicle and dismounted roles. India plans to buy the Javelin system under the US government's foreign military sales (FMS) programme in which the Pentagon serves as an intermediary.
This is a government-to-government transaction, unlike direct commercial sales negotiated directly between foreign governments and the US arms manufacturers.
Defence minister AK Antony had told Parliament in August 2010 that India was looking at a possible purchase of the third-generation anti-tank guided missile from the US. The Javelin Joint Venture is awaiting a formal letter of request to kick start the procurement.
Raytheon executives said the firm was ready to respond to all requests of the Indian government relating to the evaluation and procurement of the Javelin missile system.
The US is pitching for the lucrative order at a time when Antony has asked the armed forces to prioritise their purchases against the backdrop of a shrinking defence budget. He, however, emphasised that the military's operational readiness would not be compromised.
Foreign military contractors don't seem to be discouraged. BAE Systems international managing director Guy Griffiths told HT, "This is not an unusual issue. We face such situations everyday in the US and Europe. We are taking a long-term view of the Indian defence market and our prognosis is things will improve as the economy grows."
US defence and aerospace firms have won contracts worth more than $9 billion (Rs 49,500 crore) over the last five years to equip the Indian military with special operations aircraft, heavy airlifters and submarine hunter planes. India is also negotiating deals worth $3 billion (Rs 16,500 crore) with the US for supplying heavy-lift and attack helicopters to the IAF.
The Javelin Punch
- Designed to destroy tanks and armoured vehicles, the missile also provides secondary capability against helicopters and fixed defences such as bunkers and buildings.
- The imaging infrared system allows the gunner to acquire targets during night.
- The missile normally engages and destroys a tank in the `top-attack' mode. It also has a direct-attack capability to engage targets with overhead cover or in bunkers.
- The fire-and-forget capability allows the gunner to acquire another target or move position as soon as the missile is launched.
- The system is deployed and ready to fire in less than 30 seconds and the reload time is less than 20 seconds
- Indian soldiers had fired the Javelin in October 2009 during exercise Yudh Abhyas, the annual Indo-US military drill then held at Babina near Jhansi. The missile engaged and destroyed targets every time it was fired - six times by American troops and thrice by Indian soldiers.