A $2 billion contest to purchase close-in weapon systems for the protection of Indian Air Force bases across the country is expected to begin May 15. Livefist can confirm that the Indian MoD is all set to issue requests for proposal (RFP) next month to a handful of Indian companies following a limited tender issued to them in January this year. The ‘Make in India’ program looks to acquire 244 guns, with four each populating 61 flights with 61 radars.
Close-in weapon systems (CIWS) provide a ‘final resort’ point defence layer to bring down inbound enemy missiles, aircraft or drones that have managed to evade and penetrate layers of outer air defence that protect a base, site or ship. Though not directly linked, the Indian MoD cleared the IAF’s requirement for CIWS two months after a Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attack on the frontline Pathankot air force base in Punjab which ended with eight Indians killed, including seven security personnel.
The Indian Air Force wants the guns to begin arriving no later than five years from now, Livefist has learned, according priority to the system.
“The program under Buy & Make (Indian) stipulates that 50 per cent of the deal value needs to be made in India. Of the 244 guns, 188 will be made in India,” says S.M. Shivakumar, Vice President – Defence at Bharat Forge Ltd, part of the Kalyani Group, a private Indian components major that has forayed aggressively into the weapons market. Bharat Forge will be responding to the Indian MoD RFP next month proposing a technology partnership with BAE Systems and Israel’s IAI (for the radar) to offer the Bofors 40 Mk.4 gun. The system was on display at DefExpo last week near Chennai.
A prospective list of seven entities stand to compete for the contract after they were issued a limited tender in January this year: Bharat Forge, Mahindra Defence, Punj Lloyd, Larsen & Toubro, Tata Aerospace & Defence, Reliance Defence and a combined proposal from India’s government-owned BEL-OFB. The firms will need to submit their bids by May 15 stipulating the contours of their foreign partnerships for guns and radars. The program, placed on a ‘fast track’ in view of an umbrella threat perception to military facilities in the country, could test the desired MoD paradigm for rapid import of technology for private armament manufacture.
Air defence duties for air force bases are currently carried out by Army Air Defence units that operate L-70 and ZU-23-2B guns, both systems on the market for their own upgrade programs. The new CIWS program looks to transfer the responsibility of ‘last layer’ air defence of air force bases to the Indian Air Force.