Israel emerging as major defence partner to India

Sandeep Dikshit, The HINDU

NEW DELHI: Israel not only emerged as India’s second biggest defence equipment partner last year but is poised to maintain the tempo, with the Defence Ministry considering at least 18 projects in which Tel Aviv could be a potential partner, according to Defence Ministry sources.
If the deal for 126 fighter aircraft does not go Russia’s way and it loses out in the race for some projects under consideration, Israel could emerge as the biggest exporter of defence equipment.

The Ministry is understood to be considering areas of collaboration as diverse as lightening pods for Mirage and Jaguar fighters to submerged launch vehicles for the Navy and micro guns for the Army.

Some of the deals are expected to reach a conclusive stage with the arrival of Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak in the coming months.

Despite the controversy over the purchase of Barak anti-ship missiles for the Navy that saw the Central Bureau of Investigation registering a case in which a former Chief of the Naval Staff was also named, the Indian defence establishment is happy with the manner in which Israel has been forthcoming in consummating defence deals.

Their approach, say senior officials of Defence Finance, is in contrast with the intransigence shown by the Russians in some major defence contracts and the delays that occur in foreign military sales with the U.S.

The defence establishment too has not forgotten the prompt assistance offered by both Israel and Russia in responding to Indian SOS for spares and ammunition during the Kargil War, said a diplomat associated with the Ministry of Defence at that time.

A major project for which a tie-up with the Defence Research & Development Organisation has been effected is for joint development of medium range surface to air missiles.
Russian suzerainty

The entry of these missiles for air defence requirement will end the Russian suzerainty in this field. Israeli offers are under evaluation for autonomous and towed artillery systems to replace the Bofors guns, weapons for the Special Forces of the Army and precision guided missile and bomb guidance kits.

Israel is in the race for upgrade packages for Mirage 2000H, MiG-29 and Tu-142 aircraft and MI-17 helicopters. While the Mirage is of French origin the other aircraft are of Russian origin. However, in the MiG-29 upgrade, the Russians are stated to be ahead.

In the past five years, Israel had conducted defence trade worth $5 billion, according to figures presented in Parliament.

Among the ammunition and platforms bought from Israel are Python air-to-air missiles, Crystal Maze precision guided munitions, Delilah-II air-launched cruise missiles and Gabriel-III anti-ship missiles.

Israel is also assisting in the massive programme to ensure airworthiness and combat effectiveness of 125 MiG-21 fighters as well as the INS Vikrant based Sea Harrier fighters.

September 2, 2007 | Comments Off on Israel emerging as major defence partner to India

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