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IAF orders Israeli Spyder Missile

By Our Special Correspondent Published : September 2008

New Delhi. India has signed an agreement with Israel to acquire 18 Spyder Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs) to protect high-value assets of the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The plans to acquire the Spyder had been announced in 2006 but were on hold due to allegations of corruption over the Israeli Barak missiles deal for the Indian Navy signed four years ago. But as neither the IAF nor the Navy and Army have adequate missile defence protection, the government has been under pressure to do the needful for several years.

The Spyder deal was signed on 1st September with Rafael and Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI). There was no formal announcement but sources indicated that the delivery schedule should be within two to three years.

Spyder is a static low level, quick reaction missile (LLQRM) to neutralize hostile targets up to 15 km away, and at heights between 20 to 9000 meters. The Indian Air Force will also acquire the indigenous Akash Surface to Air Missile which has a little longer effective range of 25 km as part of a layered approach to defend its assets.

Both the Spyder and Akash are all weather missiles, 24 x 7 and 360 degrees with autonomous management and advanced Electronic Counter Counter Measures (ECCM) capability. It can be launched within five seconds, and once the commander has pressed the button, the process to seek and engage an aggressive aircraft or missile is automatic.

The Spyder consists of the Python 5 IR guided, and Derby RF guided Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles, both with Lock-on Before Launch (LOBL) and Lock-on After Launch (LOAL) modes, for faster response time and improved engagement flexibility. Besides aircraft and UAVs, they can also neutralize low-level cruise missiles.

Each Spyder unit has four missiles in ready to fire launch containers for multi-target engagement, and up to six of these units can be deployed around one asset and under one commander.

The air force had sent a Request for Proposals (RfP) mid-2005 to Russia, France, South Africa, Switzerland, Israel, Poland, and the United Kingdom.

The Spyder was finally chosen after field trials of various missiles. It may be noted that the political leadership in 1990 had put a virtual block on all military purchase programmes, and there was no periodic replacement or upgradation of equipment for several years. The Indian Army, Navy and Air Force had been conserving the Soviet vintage weapons till 1999, when Pakistani occupation of territories on the Indian side of the border led to a war, and the routine replacement and acquisition process restarted.

The three services have been pointing out that their major assets, from airbases and ships to command headquarters, would be nearly “naked’ if there was an aggression and that a missile defence cover was required without any more delay.

All of them are now in various stages of acquiring defensive missiles with different ranges and capabilities, but it would be a few years – say 3 to 5 – for them to really an effective capability.

Meanwhile, the US ams technology major Raytheon has let it be known that it is offering its famed Patriot missile to the Indian Army in an international bid for Medium Range (MR) missiles – with a range of 60 km. The tenders for the RfP in this regard are due for submission in October.

Notably, the Indian armed forces are loaded with Soviet-vintage defensive systems like Pechora, IGLA and OSA-AK, and the top brass from the Army, Navy and Air Force has been asking for their replacement for years. A version of the Spyder is also being considered by the Indian Army, while the government is giving the go-ahead for collaboration with the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Rafael to manufacture an advanced MR version of the Barak in India, with a range of up to 70 km for precision engagement of hostile aircraft.

Reports are that the Indian government has already sanctioned $ 2.5 billion in this regard for the missile’s manufacture in India under Transfer of Technology (ToT).

India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which acquired an advanced Greenpine radar’s computer hardware from Israel some years ago, will be the nodal agency in this project. But then, the manufacturing and integration could be shared by both the public sector and private sector industries.

Once the project gets going, there are plans also for longer range versions of the missiles, moving in stages to 120 and 350 km.

Precision engagement capability, remote or autonomous guidance, everything is being worked out and the Israelis, with their mastery in electronics, are literally promising the moon.

  © India Strategic 
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