A new generation Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM), developed by India and Israel, was successfully test-fired twice on Thursday from the Integrated Test Range off Odisha Coast, significantly boosting India’s efforts to fill gaps in its air defence capabilities.
Developed by the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the Indian Air Force, the missile successfully shot down pilotless target aircraft twice on Thursday, the Ministry of Defence said.
“Many Indian industries like BEL [Bharat Electronics Ltd], L&T [Larsen & Toubro], BDL [Bharat Dynamics Ltd], and Tata group of companies besides other private industries have contributed to the development of a number of subsystems which have been put into use in this flight test,” the MoD said in a statement announcing the test. The Ministry said the MRSAM system provides reliable air defence at medium ranges. Capable of intercepting incoming aerial threats up to a range of 70 km, MRSAMs could be deployed in sensitive air force stations, the national capital and also for protecting other sensitive installations such as nuclear plants.
The Ministry said Indian and Israel teams participated in the launch, MRSAM’s first test in India. This would be followed by several more tests in the coming days before its final induction into the IAF. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar congratulated DRDO and the industry partners for the test.
Dr. G. Satheesh Reddy, Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister and Programme Director, MRSAM who led the entire launch operation commended the team saying, “It is a quantum jump in air defence capability. The missile successfully intercepted a manoeuvring air-breathing target mimicking an attacking combat aircraft. It was a perfect launch achieving all the mission parameters.”
The contract for MRSAM was signed in 2009, on the eve of the Lok Sabha election, kicking up much controversy over the way the partnership was formed without a transparent selection process. Then worth Rs. 10,400 crore, the DRDO handled about Rs. 3000 crore worth of the contract, while the rest, over Rs. 7000 crore, went to IAI.
The project is running several months behind schedule. The MRSAM is the land version of LRSAM (long range surface to air missile) that DRDO and IAI are developing for the Navy.
The decision to go in for a global JV was taken after indigenous Akash and Trishul missile systems were delayed.
Though the missile is among the finest SAMs in the world, the way the project was executed has not impressed many within and outside the government. An internal report by a team of military officers, headed by Air Marshal M. Matheswaran, submitted in April 2014 had pointed out that IAI remains the design authority for the complete system. “IAI is doing the role of supplier and the DRDO is the buyer, which is contrary to the DRDO role of design agency,” it said.
“No transfer of technology has been taken as part of the contract. We will remain dependent on IAI for its share,” the report said. It had also said that the intellectual property rights remain with the design authority.