Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's maiden visit to France and Germany, the Defence Ministry has given its nod for purchasing nine Maitri short range surface to air missile (SAM) systems from the European arms major MBDA for Indian warships.
While the Defence Research and Development Organisation’s (DRDO) Aakash SAM will fulfill the air defence requirement of the Army and Air Force, the indigenous missile has been found wanting for the naval needs. The defence acquisition council, therefore, instructed the DRDO to engage with MBDA for co-development of these missiles with a range of approximately 25 km for the Navy.
“Aakash does not meet naval staff qualitative requirement because of the sea keeping issues and instability of the platform. That’s why DRDO has been asked to restart the talks,” said a Navy official.
The green signal was given in a meeting of the defence acquisition council, headed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, on March 28.
Even though the Maitri programme began in 2007, the European company’s hopes were dashed last year when Air Force and Army said indigenous Aakash missile was good enough for them.
In the last two months, MBDA officials met Parrikar at least twice to find out ways to salvage the deal.
The Navy’s requirement is nine Maitri systems, each of them carrying 40 missiles for anti-missile defence of the vessels. The deal’s worth is likely to be few thousand crores though there is no official word even on the estimated price tag.
Three big European firms Airbus (37.5 per cent), BAE Systems (37.5 per cent) and Finmeccanica (25 per cent) have stakes in the MBDA. One of the them, Finmeccanica, was under scanner of the Indian government for the VVIP chopper scam.
In addition, the DAC approved midlife upgrading of 10 Ka-28 helicopters from Russia at a cost of Rs 2100 crore (297 million euro). These helicopters came in the early 1990s for the Ranvijay class ships.
Moreover, approvals were given to purchase 22 Harpoon missiles for the six HDW (Shishumar class) submarines at a cost of Rs 913 crore from the US and six anti-missile defence radar of Rs 343 crore for four Koraclass corvettes and two missile boats.