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By Bulbul Singh

22 Mar 11. The first test of the prototype missile, including the radar and launcher, of the Indo-Israeli project to design and produce the 70 kilometres range Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM) has now been slotted for 2012. The MRSAM system would be able to engage aircraft, helicopters, missiles, UAVs and all types of airborne target at a range of 70 kilometres.

DRDO and ELTA and IAI have a 50:50 work share in the joint venture for developing the MRSAM for both Indian and Israeli use and the entire system will be produced in India. DRDO tied up with Rafael to develop the MRSAM in 2009 before the general elections.

The $2 billion Indo-Israeli project is running parallel with another indigenous anti-ballistic missile project, Prithvi Air Defense (PAD) system, also in the testing stage, has been tested at a height of 75 kilometres, whilst the range planned is to be increased to more than 120 kilometres. In addition PAD has been tested to kill an incoming missile at a height of 15 kilometres. Both the endo-atmospheric and exo-atomspheric tests have been performed.

For the Indo-Israeli MRSAM project Hemair Systems India Ltd. has custom-built a cooling system. The cooling system will ensure the thermal stability of the radar by producing and circulating cool water at 17 degrees Celsius. DRDO decided to custom-build a cooling system in India and not import one from overseas.

Each MRSAM squadron will consist of two units and one MRSAM system and will include one acquisition and guidance radar, one control centre and three launch systems. Each launcher will have eight missiles.

Meanwhile DRDO successfully conducted a Mach 6 endo-atmospheric test of the PAD when an incoming ballistic missile with a range of 600 kilometers was killed at a height of 16 kilometres. However, despite the tests, induction of the system is at least three years away.

Indian defence forces have been demanding the purchase of an effective long-range air defence system, along with the Indo-Israeli MRSAM and PAD project given the potential threat from nuclear-armed China and Pakistan.

One Indian Army official said, “We cannot afford to keep a gaping hole in our defence against ballistic missiles even for a minute”.

The officer added that the induction date of MRSAM and PAD is still uncertain and it would be prudent to buy an advanced anti-ballistic missile system off the shelf.

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