SAAB of Sweden has begun training engineers of Bharat Forge under a proposed joint venture in anticipation of a contract to supply air defence systems to the Army. The move comes even as SAAB is gearing up for confirmatory trials for the Very Short Range Air Defence Systems (VSHORAD) tender, while it makes an aggressive pitch for the Short Range Surface to Air Missile (SRSAM) tender. These systems are meant to replace the legacy Russian air defence systems in service and have seen repeated delays.
In June, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the highest authority for defence procurements, reviewed the status of both air defence programmes and decided to “keep the ongoing procurement process going in a multi-vendor situation.”
Missiles and launchers
The VSHORAD tender is intended for the Army and Navy and worth over $5.2-billion for 5,175 missiles and 1,276 single and multi-launchers with stipulated technology transfer requirement for the Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU).
There are three contenders — SAAB, MBDA of France and Rosoboronexport of Russia. SAAB has fielded its RBS 70 system for the tender. The trials which began in May 2012 are still ongoing. “Trials will continue on the VSHORAD which are called confirmatory trials in the coming months. Since all three vendors have been called for new trials all have some non-compliances,” said Bo Almqvist of SAAB, who handles air defence systems for the Swedish defence and aerospace major which clocked $3 billion in sales in 2015. Explaining their non-compliance, he said according to the Request for Proposal (RFP), the missile should weigh 25 kg, man portable firing station 25 kg and sight with power pack 20kg. “We have that in a different order. Our sighting system includes the beamer and weighs 25 kg and the firing station includes the stand with the power pack which is 20 kg. That is our non-compliance,” Dr. Almqvist added. The stand itself was redesigned after inputs from the Indian Army that it was too heavy, he said adding that the lighter variant was now standard feature for all systems under production.
Dr. Almqvist said that both their systems are “command line of sight” which means the target is tracked till impact due to which the system is “jamming resistant” and can be aborted after launch.
The SRSAM requirement is for two regiments consisting of 52 missile firing units, 18 radars and 1980 missiles and is worth about Rs.12,000-14,000 crore. SAAB has fielded its BAMSE system with a range of 20 km which is mounted on an Ashok Leyland truck. In anticipation of the order, it has begun training engineers from Kalyani Strategic Systems Ltd (KSSL), the defence arm of Bharat Forge at its facility in Karlskoga, company officials said.
“The idea is to set up an Assembly, Test and Integration (AIT) facility and some part of production as part of our long term commitment under Make in India,” Dr. Almqvist said. The possible location of the JV is Satara in Maharashtra which will be finalised once the winner is announced likely by end of this year. KSSL is already supplying rear steering fins for the BAMSE missile by 3D printing. The Army which is inducting the indigenously developed Akash SRSAM with a range of 25 km is looking for a quick reaction missile for which the current tender is under way.