Air Defense: India Fumbles A Sure Thing


November 18, 2013: India and Israel have a deal to jointly develop and manufacture the new Barak 8 anti-aircraft missile. Some 70 percent of the development work has been done in Israel and India will be the major customer (buying $1.1 billion worth of Barak 8) for the naval version of the missile (because India has a larger navy). The two countries evenly split the $350 million development cost. Each Barak system (missile container, radar, computers, and installation) costs about $24 million. Azerbaijan has also bought Barak 8.

All went according to plan until the Indians found that they had a major problem: 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 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 manufacturing of Barak 8 components.

Meanwhile, Israel is already manufacturing and installing the new Barak 8 on its three 1,075 ton Saar 5 class corvettes. This means Barak 8 will be ready for action over a year before its scheduled 2015 service date. Israel is believed to be rushing 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.

Back in 2009, Israel successfully tested its improved Barak 8 missile for the first time. The firing took place from a Saar 5 class corvette, against an incoming missile, which was successfully destroyed. 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.

The original Barak 1 missile was introduced in the 1980s. Currently each missile costs about $1.6 million, weighs 98 kg (216 pounds) each, and has a 21.8 kg (48 pound) warhead. These missiles were also mounted in an eight cell container. The radar system provides 360 degree coverage and the missiles can take down an incoming missile as close as 500 meters away from the ship. The missile has a range of ten kilometers and is also effective against aircraft. India has bought over $300 million worth of these systems.

Israel weapons have a solid reputation for reliability and effectiveness. Israeli success in several wars adds to the appeal of their armaments. U.S. and Israeli arms manufacturers often work together, which also gives Israel an edge when selling their equipment. The Barak has been exported to India, Chile, Singapore, and Venezuela. India has become a major customer for Israeli military equipment and has built Russian weapons under license since the 1960s. Despite encountering some problems when Indian manufacturers did not build components to Russian specifications, India managed to get into trouble with the Barak 8, which is a much more complex piece of tech than anything India ever got from Russia.


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