Air force inducts 70km range surface-to-air missile system
The Indian Air Force on Thursday inducted a medium range surface-to-air-missile (MRSAM) system capable of knocking out aerial threats such as enemy fighter jets, missiles, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles at a range of 70 km. Defence minister Rajnath Singh described the capability as a “game changer” in air defence.
India and Israel have jointly developed MRSAM or the Barak 8 air defence system that includes advanced radar, command and control systems, and mobile launchers. The missile is powered by a locally-developed rocket motor and control system for high manoeuvrability in the terminal phase.
“With the handing over of the MRSAM system to IAF, we have taken a giant leap towards achieving ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India). The MRSAM will prove to be a game changer in air defence,” Singh said at the induction ceremony in Jaisalmer.
The system has been developed jointly by the Israel Aerospace Industries and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Other firms involved in the project include Israeli firm Rafael, Bharat Electronics Limited, Bharat Dynamics Limited and Larsen & Toubro.
DRDO chief G Satheesh Reddy handed over the first firing unit of the system to IAF chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria in Singh’s presence.
“The system is capable of hitting multiple targets simultaneously up to a range of 70 km, even in bad weather. Its success in a string of stringent tests is a proof of its reliability,” the defence minister said.
A naval version of MRSAM is already deployed on a few Indian warships to boost their anti-air warfare capabilities. The army too has placed orders for the MRSAM but it has not yet inducted the system. India and Israel have inked separate deals worth around $3 billion over the last four years for advanced surface-to-air missile systems for the three services.
“The MRSAM system was long awaited. Its induction now will boost the IAF’s air defence capability significantly. The impending arrival of the S-400 missile defence systems from Russia will make those capabilities even more formidable,” said Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), former additional director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.
India is set to soon begin induction of the S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems ordered from Russia in October 2018. New Delhi has placed orders for five such missile systems capable of destroying a variety of aerial threats, including enemy fighter jets and missiles, at a range of 400 km, and expects the first deliveries by the year-end.
Singh said MRSAM was one of the best missile systems available globally and the project highlighted the close partnership between Indian and Israel in the defence sector. The minister said the MRSAM project strengthened the defence industrial bases of both India and Israel, and was “a win-win situation” for both countries. It has also led to the creation of new test facilities and other infrastructure in the country, he said.
Israel has been among India’s top three arms suppliers during the last five years, according to a report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) in March 2021. India’s top three arms suppliers during 2016-20 were Russia (accounting for 49% of India’s imports), France (18%) and Israel (13%).
Singh said geo-political changes impacted trade, economy, power politics and the security scenario. “In such a situation, strengthening our security and self-reliance has become a necessity, not an achievement.”
The minister said the global scenario was transforming very fast. “Equations between countries are also changing rapidly according to their interests. Whether it is the South China Sea, Indian Ocean Region, Indo-Pacific or Central Asia, uncertainty can be seen everywhere,” Singh said.
The MRSAM induction ceremony took place after Singh and minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari jointly inaugurated an emergency landing facility for the IAF on the Satta-Gandhav stretch of NH-925A near Barmer. The two ministers also witnessed aircraft operations on the new landing facility, which supports landing of all aircraft in the air force’s fighter and transport fleets.