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By Bulbul Singh

09 Jun 08. All is set for the ambitious joint development of an advanced next generation low-level quick quick-reaction missile (LLQRM) system between India and France. The LLQRM project, ‘Maitri”, will jointly developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organisation [DRDO] and MBDA of France.

Senior Indian defence ministry officials resolved some issues on the Maitri project during talks with French officials on the sidelines of the Berlin Air Show, remarked a DRDO scientist. India’s Defence Minister A K Antony led a high-level defence delegation to the Berlin Show.

The development paves the way for the development of the Maitri for the Indian Navy and Air Force to be jointly developed by DRDO’s missile laboratory – the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) – and MBDA, confirmed an DRDO scientist.

However a formal clearance by the Indian government on the project is likely to take another two to three months, sources said in the Indian defence ministry.

The feasibility study of the Maitri project is complete and the draft proposal has now been approved by both sides.

The Maitri project will be modelled on a government-to-government R&D partnership, as is in the case of the Russian BrahMos project, so that the two governments guarantee the flow of funds and technology.

The plan calls for MBDA to develop the active homing-head system, thrust vector control systems and missiles, while the software, command-and-control system and system integration will be carried out by the DRDL.

The Maitri LLQRM, which is expected to be completed within three years from date of inking of the final deal, likely in the next three months, will have a range of above 35 kilometres. DRDO scientists claimed that the missile system will be an advanced system in its category of air defence systems in the world.

India will develop new generation acquisition radar which capable of tracking multiple targets at a distance of up to 240 kilometres, claimed the DRDO scientist.

Indian defence forces have been pressing the Indian government to procure LLQRM systems from the overseas market as the homegrown Trishul LLQRM system is on the verge of being formally declared a failure. India began looking to foreign firms after Trishul was rejected by the Army, Navy and Air Force. Trishul program was launched in 1984 by the Defence Research and Development Organisation,

The Indian defence ministry shortlisted last year the purchase of 18 Spyder Low-Level Quick Reaction Missiles, (LLQRM), for the Indian Air Force from Rafael of Israel but the contract has still to be inked.

In fact Rafael was short-listed for supply of Spyder Missiles against MBDA for the $325m contract.

Meanwhile the Indian Navy has mounted the Israeli Barak missile system on its warships, including the aircraft carrier, INS Viraat. However, the Barak missile deal has run into controversy with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) of India investigating charges of kickbacks. The first batch of seven Barak systems was approved by the Indian Cabinet in 1996, followed by another approval in 2000 for $260m during the regime of former defence Minister George Fernandes.

Sources suggest that the CBI is zeroing in on George Fernandes on allegations of receiving kickbacks in the purchase of Barak systems in 2000 from IAI of Israel.


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