According to defence sources, the Army, which has been hunting for new man-portable air defence systems for a long time, has inducted a small number of Igla-S systems recently purchased from Russia under emergency procurement. However, the Defence Ministry is still reviewing a far larger procurement for Igla-S systems under the Very Short Range Air Defense System (VSHORAD) arrangement.
“In December 2020, the contract was signed, and the equipment was delivered in December 2021. One of the individuals added, “This includes 24 launchers, 216 missiles, and testing equipment.”
The procurement was carried out using the Vice Chief’s emergency budgetary powers, which were first granted to the Services following the Balakot air strike in February 2019 and were later extended following the stalemate with China in Eastern Ladakh in May 2020. This allows the Services to purchase weapons systems worth up to 300 crores on an urgent basis without requiring any additional approvals.
In the wake of Russia’s special military campaign in Ukraine and Western sanctions, India and Russia are negotiating options to use the Rupee-Rouble channel for trade and payments in a significant way. The Ministry is also evaluating the impact on timely deal implementation, as well as consistent supplies of parts and assistance.
The broader VSHORAD case, which began in 2010 and has gone through numerous rounds of trials and retrials, is still in the works.
This deal, which was on the verge of being finalised, is now being reviewed as part of the Defense Ministry’s overall review of all direct import deals. Another defence source claimed that discussions on the broader VSHORAD purchase are still ongoing.
In October 2010, VSHORAD issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for over 5,000 missiles, 258 single launchers, and 258 multi-launchers. Five bidders responded, and three of them – MBDA of France, Rosoboronexport of Russia, and SAAB of Sweden – made it to the trials. In 2017, all three businesses were confirmed technically compliant, and in November 2018, Igla-S was declared the lowest bidder.
While the Army’s benchmark price was slightly over $2 billion, Rosoboronexport’s proposal was approximately $1.47 billion, SAAB’s was around $2.6 billion, and MBDA’s was around $3.68 billion. The Russian bid was far lower than the benchmark price, causing much debate inside the Ministry. There were also multiple complaints of procedural violations, with some vendors filing protest letters.
The VSHORAD will replace the present Igla in service, which is in desperate need of replacement, and will have a maximum range of 6 km, height of 3 km, and all-weather capability. In the multilayered air defence network, VSHORAD is the soldier’s last line of defence against enemy combat aircraft and helicopters.
In addition to the Igla-S, the Army variant of the Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM), which is being developed jointly by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), successfully completed trials earlier this month and is now ready for induction. The MRSAM Army Version has its first launch in December 2020.
Air Defence functions in three levels – gun/missile system, medium range, and high range. There are two types of Air Defense guns: AD Gun Missile Systems and AD Self-Propelled Guns. In both categories, the Army is looking for AD firearms. The indigenous Akash SAM is in the middle sector, while MRSAM is in the high range.