Procurement: Israel And India Fight Over Secrets

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June 18, 2016: India continues to suffer delays in getting the Israeli Barak 8 SAM (surface-to-air missile) system into service. This should not be happening because Barak 8 entered Israeli service in 2013. But India wanted to make a few changes for its naval version (LRSAM) and land version (MRSAM). As experienced Indian naval officers expected, this simple request (actually a demand) caused a lot of problems. Not surprisingly the LRSAM/MRSAM soon fell way behind schedule. This is the norm for Indian state run defense firms. And there’s not much India can do about because Indian politicians and defense officials insist on Indians (mainly state owned defense firms) doing the modifications. In this case this minor bit of work would enable Indian politicians to claim LRSAM and MRSAM are Indian developed and made. The Israelis go along with this because India is a big customer. A growing number of Indians, especially those in the military who are put at risk by all this, know what is going on and want change.

This is all about the persistent Indian problems with managing the development of military technology. The Barak 8 fiasco began in 2006 when India and Israel agreed to jointly develop and manufacture Barak 8. India calls their naval version LRSAM (Long Range Surface to Air Missile) and the land version MRSAM. Both of these systems will replace older Russian weapons as well as Russian offers of new Russian made replacements.

While most (70 percent) of the Barak 8 development work has been done in Israel, India is the major customer because it is buying $1.1 billion worth of LRSAM for their warships and even larger orders to replace older Russian SA-6 and SA-8 land based systems. Since India has larger armed forces (and weapons needs), they will be the major user. The two countries evenly split the $350 million development cost. The Indian delay is because of problems developing features India wanted as well as setting up manufacturing facilities for the few Indian made components in LRSAM. While the Barak 8 was installed in Israeli ships in late 2013, Israel cannot just install Barak 8 in Indian warships until the two countries resolve some differences over the transfer of some Israeli technology to India. This has also been a problem with other Western nations and the Indian government has not been willing to change Indian laws and patent protections to avoid these problems.

In 2010 Indian defense officials realized they had a major, and embarrassing, problem with LRSAM/MRSAM; they did not have enough engineers in the government procurement bureaucracy to quickly and accurately transfer the Israeli technical data to the Indian manufacturers. In addition, some of the Indian firms that were to manufacture Barak 8 components either misrepresented their capabilities or did not know until it was too late that they did not have the personnel or equipment to handle the job. In 2016 another self-inflicted problem arose two state owned defense manufacturing firms got into a dispute with each other and the government over which of them would be in charge of managing the Indian work on LRSAM/MRSAM. This dispute also involves efforts by state owned defense firms to get more political support for increasing pressure on Israel to give ground on exporting defense tech to India. What no one wants to say openly is that the corruption in India, especially in defense matters, is epic and most Western states do not trust the Indians unless there are strong (and embarrassing to Indian officials) legal guarantees about the security of exported tech.

Meanwhile, Israel has already manufactured and installed Barak 8 on its three 1,075 ton Saar 5 class corvettes. Thus Barak 8 was ready for action over a year before its scheduled 2015 service date. Israel is believed to have rushed this installation because Russia has sent high speed Yakhont anti-ship missiles to Syria and Barak 8 was designed to deal with this kind of threat. Barak 8 is also Israel’s first air defense system equal to the American Patriot (and similar systems like the U.S. Navy SM-2, Russian S-300, and European Aster 15). An improved Barak 8 would be able to shoot down short range ballistic missiles.

The Barak 8 is a 275 kg (605 pound) missile with a 60 kg (132 pound) warhead and a range of 70 kilometers. The warhead has its own seeker that can find the target despite most countermeasures. The missiles are mounted in a three ton, eight cell container (which requires little maintenance), and are launched straight up. The compact (for easy installation on a ship) fire control module weighs under two tons.

 


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