Air Defense: Indian Navy Air Defense Rescued From Disaster

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January 7, 2014: The Indian Navy finally convinced its government to allow the purchase of 262 more Barak-I anti-aircraft/missile missiles. The navy spent most of 2013 trying to lift a government ban on buying any more of these missiles. Israel offered to sell the missiles for $573,000 each. At the moment, 14 major Indian warships are equipped with Barak. India first bought Barak 1 in 2000 and in 2007 joined Israel in developing the new Barak 8. Both these projects are in trouble because of bribery accusations. Over the last decade Israel has sold over six billion dollars’ worth of arms to India. The biggest single item has been the Barak anti-missile systems for ships. The Barak system uses small missiles to shoot down incoming anti-ship missiles. Israeli 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.

Indian corruption investigations revealed that large bribes were paid to Indian officials to make those Barak sales happen. Those naughty Israelis joined naughty Swedes, Italians, and evil foreigners from several other nations that had made major weapons sales to India via Indian officials demanding bribes. It's not like India is the only nation that has corruption problems in the military procurement area. All nations do, but the extent of the corruption varies quite a lot and India would like to move away from the top of the list. This will please Indian taxpayers, as well as those concerned about defense matters, especially people in the military. When military suppliers are selected mainly on the basis of how large a bribe they will pay, you often do not get the best stuff available. The problem is that the Indian CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) tends to blacklist foreign suppliers accused of corruption until the case can be resolved. Oddly, Israel was not added to the blacklist because of the corruption allegations, apparently because of the Barak 8 joint venture. Nevertheless, in August 2012 CBI put a hold on the navy request for more Barak 1 missiles. This was thought to be a ploy to get the navy to be more helpful to the corruption investigators. No one really knows, and when it comes to investigating corruption in India, things get murky real fast. Now that the government has approved the Barak 1 deal many dirty, but unindicted naval officers are no doubt nervous.

Barak 1 missiles weigh 98 kg (216 pounds) each, with a 21.8 kg (48 pound) warhead. The missiles are 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. The Barak has been exported to India, Chile, Singapore, and Venezuela.

India has bought over $500 million worth of these systems. But the missiles are used regularly for training and the navy needs to maintain a war reserve of missile reloads to replenish heavy usage during combat. Once you've made a major purchase via a tainted process, you still have to keep buying material to keep the system (assuming it meets your needs) operational. Despite the bribes, the Barak missiles have performed as advertised. So did the Swedish artillery and many other items bought only after the procurement officials got their gratuity. Thus the Indians try to concentrate more on the corruption among Indian officials. That way the military won't be cut off from needed weapons and at least one side of the corruption problem can be vigorously attacked. The problem is getting the Indian courts to decide who to go after and persuading the CBI to get out of the way. Meanwhile, without the 262 new Barak 1 missiles the navy warned the government that it had to either cut back on training or see the war reserve fade away.

Indian efforts to curb corruption in defense procurement doesn't always work out. Sometimes the target of the investigation turns out to be innocent, often just the victim of circumstance (being told to pay the bribe or see the contract go to someone who will). Sometimes anti-corruption efforts backfire. An example is an attempt to blacklist firms that have been caught paying bribes to Indian officials or otherwise misbehaving. These companies were to be blocked from doing any more business with India. It soon became apparent that this was not going to work in some cases. Spare parts and replacement munitions were needed for many systems manufactured by firms on the black list. And sometimes the weapons in question were badly needed. That’s what is happening with Barak 1 and several other crucial systems.

 


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