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By Bulbul Singh

15 Feb 06. The Indian Army last week has won the most difficult battle against
India’s defense research agency, Defence Research and Development Organisation, DRDO, which has virtually blocked its air defence acquisition program for the last fifteen years.

The Indian Army has now been granted permission from the government to float global tenders for variety of air defence systems, both short range, medium range, and long range.

An Indian Army official said, their budget of over $400 million for procurement of air defence systems was diverted to DRDO to indigenously design and develop different versions of air defense systems. In its assessment report on DRDO systems, the Indian Army had said that the short range quick reaction missile system, Trishul, developed by DRDO have been rejected by the government and the system will not be inducted ever into the army.

Similarly for medium range air defence system, Akash, also developed by DRDO, has been put again for final trials which will begin from next year for two consecutive years and then it will be decided by both the army and the government whether to continue this project or scrap it.

An Indian army official said that a proposal is awaited before the defence ministry for sanction of $ 300 million for procurement of short range surface to air missile systems for the air defence of the Indian Army.

Presently the Indian army uses variety antiquated missiles systems which include Russian made Kvadrat, Shilka medium range mobile missile systems, and the short range Osa-ak missile system, and the Tanguska air defence system.

These systems were procured in late 70’s and more than 40 per cent of them are currently grounded because of lack of spares, and are due for up gradation for the last ten years said the Indian army official.

Air defence is the weakest area of the Indian Army revealed Indian Army officials who added that the air defence system of Pakistan is better then the Indian system.

So far the Indian Army was awaiting the homegrown air defence systems being developed by DRDO which are behind scheduled by more then 10 years and there is no guarantee when they will be fit for induction.

The purchase of modern air defence systems will now be made on a an emergency basis remarked an official of the Indian defense ministry who admitted that the air defence area has been ignored by the Indian defense planners as they relied too much on DRDO.

During Defexpo 2006, Jan. 31 to Feb.3 in New Delhi a number of overseas companies had displayed their air defence system in anticipation of the big ticket purchase in the near future. These included MBDA of France which had show cased its Aster 15, KBB Tula of Russia which show cased its Tor M1, Rafael of Israel which displayed its Spyder, and Oerlikon Contraves of Canada
which had put up its air defence/anti tank system.

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