India is Israel's biggest arms market, buying 41 per cent of its export between 2012 and 2016, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an independent global arms research institute.
If the Spike missile deal is finalised, 2017 is set to be a record year in terms of Israeli weapons sales to India. This April, marking the largest ever arms deal in the history of Israel’s defence sector, Israel's state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) inked contracts with India amounting to $2 billion. A few weeks later, IAI closed yet another major deal worth $630 million with India, in a project to be jointly executed with Bharat Electronics Ltd.
At the recently concluded Paris air show, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems unveiled its fifth-generation Spike missile with a significant increase in range and lethality. According to a statement released by the company, the Spike LR II “is an advanced multi-purpose missile, and can be launched from any Spike launcher”.
To compete with Nag ::
Having already secured its first customer, the company is to launch the new version in the fourth quarter of 2018. In India, Rafael’s Spike missile will compete with the Nag missile, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
DRDO said the Nag is incorporated with many advanced technologies, including the imaging infra-red radar seeker with integrated avionics, a capability that is possessed by few nations in the world.
Though the DRDO test-fired its third generation anti-tank missile, the Prospina, also known as Nag, at the Pokhran range recently, sources indicated that the Indian Army has a total requirement of around 40,000 anti-tank guided missiles over the next 20 years.
“The overall requirement for the Indian Army is very large. Along with the Prospina, which can hit high-speed moving tanks, the requirement for more missiles is urgent. Though Israel's Spike got the government nod in 2014, there were other issues at play, a single vendor situation as well as Spike's high cost, which proved to be a major hurdle,” said official sources privy to the discussions.