India, Israel Defense and Security Ecosystem: The ‘New Normal’

The Indian Air Force last week test fired an Israeli Derby Air-to-Air Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Missile from its domestically grown Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Tejas; Earlier this month, the Indian government lifted restricted blacklisting on Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, citing lack of evidence of supposed corruption.

IRSHAD SALIM (May 2, 2018) — Israeli defense and security firms are in an accelerated process to supply various air and missile defense systems to India which has become not only one of Israel’s largest buyers of military hardware, with annual defense deals worth over $1 billion (and increasing) but also its research and development partner–some observers have dubbed the two nations ‘Brothers in Arms’.

Both countries seek to benefit from each others strengths in defense and security while espousing common threat perceptions like ‘terrorism within and close to their borders.’ Since end must justifies the means mantra couple with ‘time is of the essence’, the two have embarked on a spirited journey. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a historic visit to Jerusalem in July last year–the first Indian prime minister to do so.

Arms deals with Israel’s military industries were announced while Modi was in Israel. Prior to his visit, Delhi gave nod to several whopping defense purchases from Israel’s major arms suppliers.

Subsequently, the traditional vendor-driven approach is being replaced by India with a joint ecosystem to get and absorb the Israeli technologies, promote defense production locally and intensify collaboration. The ‘new normal’ emerged after Israeli PM Netanyahu’s 6-day trip in January in response to Modi’s visit to Israel in summer of 2017.

Earlier this month, the Indian government lifted restricted blacklisting on Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, citing lack of evidence of supposed corruption.

A notification issued by the Indian Ministry of Defense said the government has decided to remove restrictions, effective immediately, that prevented the two Israeli defense companies to carry out defense business activities.

Following the acceptance of the classified report filed by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), the two companies are now permitted to participate in the ongoing and future procurements.

In 2006, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a corruption case against the two companies related to deal for nine Barak-I anti-missile defense systems for the navy from IAI, and 200 missiles from Rafael. In February of this year, the two companies were put under restricted procurements category, permitted to carry out business dealings only on account of operational urgency, national security and non-availability of other alternatives.

Currently IAI is awaiting an additional order of two Phalcon airborne warning and control systems and unspecified numbers of tactical unmanned aerial vehicles, while Rafael is awaiting order for supply of Spike anti-tank guided missiles. An industry analyst who requested anonymity told Defense News that MoD is now working out new measures to remove bottlenecks in weapons procurement, and lifting blacklisting is one such move.

Slovenian soldiers engage targets with a Spike long-range anti-tank guidance missile, manufactured by Rafael. Spike sales are among the opportunities that could go through for the company, with the lifting of blacklist restrictions from India.

The development comes as major weapons procurement from Israel is in the works.

In February last year, the Indian government cleared a $2.5 billion deal for its army to buy a medium-range surface-to-air missile defense system (MRSAM) from IAI– it was a step toward signing formal contract, Indian media reports had said.

According to India Today, the Indian Army “will induct over five regiments of the MRSAM missile, which will have around 40 firing units and over 200 missiles of the system.”

Delivery of the first system will begin within 72 months of signing the contract and be deployed for operations by 2023.

Months later (in April), the IAI announced it had been awarded the largest defense contract in Israel’s defense industry’s history after signing a $1.6 billion mega-contract with the Indian Army for the MRSAM as well as additional long-range surface-to-air missile (LRSAM) defense systems for Indian aircraft carriers. The Barak-8 Missile Defense System is to be installed on the INS Vikrant, INS Viraat and INS Vikramaditya.

In May, the Israeli firm signed a $630 million deal with the Indian state-owned aerospace and defense company Bharat Electronics Limited to design-build and provide a naval version of the aerial defense system Barak 8 for four navy ships.

Once operational, the system is expected to boost Indian Navy’s air defense capabilities by filling in deterrent gaps in India’s naval defense and security on its western seaboard along the Indian Ocean– Delhi fears its arch rivals China and Pakistan (the two countries call each other ‘Iron Brothers’) are stepping up presence in IOR and Arabian Sea it considers its frontyard.

The inclusion of Indian governmental company BEL is for the first time, and a step up in Israel’s relationship with the Indian defense industry–part of Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative which has also drawn several US defense and security suppliers in the loop.

Prior to signing the $630m contract, which also includes the procurement of radar, missiles and a command and control board for the system, India’s Western Naval Command had reportedly conducted a trial firing of MRSAM from the INS Kochi as part of operational interception trial to demonstrate the system’s operational capabilities in a representative scenario with a real target, the New Indian Express website had quoted an official as stating.

The Barak-8 MRSAM jointly developed by Israel Aircraft Industry and India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), is a land-based configuration of the long-range surface-to-air missile (LRSAM) or Barak-8 naval air defense system. These missile system is manufactured locally by Hyderabad-based Bharat Dynamics Limited. The Guardian, citing Israeli media, had reported back in 2015 that the jointly developed Barak 8 could be deployed by Israel also near its offshore gas rigs.

Benjamin Netanyahu and Narendra Modi hit the beach on the Mediterranean to do business (July 2017)

IAI and other Israeli defense firms including Rafael and IAI/Elta, in collaboration with various Indian companies including BEL, L&T, BDL and other private vendors, have been working with the Indian defense industries and armed forces, including the coast guard, navy, air force and army, for the past 25 years as part of strategic collaborations under New Delhi’s ‘Made in India’ policy, and lately based on transfer of technology as part of Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.

At the core of Israel-India defense and security collaboration is joint research & development, transfer of technology and manufacturing, along with intel sharing and cooperation, several analysts say.

“We will continue to support our partners in India in advancing the industry and security of both countries,” Boaz Levi, executive vice president and general manager of the Systems, Missiles and Space Group said while signing the deal.

Modi’s historic visit to Israel was highlighted in the local and international media as growing bilateral relationship on defense and security between the two countries. As of last year, Israel has become India’s third largest arms supplier and may step up to the second place within a year or two–it’s competing with the U.S. while many experts think it’s actually collaborating with its long-term security and defense ally in a US-Israeli-India triangulation. The US and India’s defense and security relations have already grown leaps and bounds post-9/11.

Brig. Shahid Manzoor, Pakistan’s Defense Attache to Saudi Arabia, says, “US is using Israel to allow flow of advance technology to India within its grand design of propping up India as bulkhead against China, hence these transactions are likely to increase in volume and sophistication. Secondly, it also underscores the hollowness of Indian claims of success of homegrown defense products like anti aircraft missiles, anti tank missiles, etc.”

In a related note, the Indian Air Force last week test fired an Israeli Derby Air-to-Air Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Missile from its domestically grown Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Tejas to demonstrate safe operation of the aircraft during missile plume ingestion into the aircraft engine under worst case scenarios.

The missile was launched from LCA Tejas from the firing range off the Goa coast. LCA Tejas has been designed & developed by DRDO’s autonomous society – Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the Indian MoD said in a statement Sunday according to DefenseWorld.

According to the report, “based on successful integration and demonstration, DRDO has cleared the series production aircraft of Squadron 45, to be equipped with Derby operational capability. LCA Tejas has successfully completed a series of captive flight trials to clear Derby for the full operational capability in the entire Final Operational Clearance (FOC) envelope.

DRDO has announced that it was working on ways to protect the country against missiles that have a range of up to 5,000 kilometers. India may purchase modern early-warning radars needed to guide interceptors from Israel.

According to Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal, Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, the nurturing of the Indian missile defense system is alarming for the strategic stability in South Asia because it intensifies arms race between India and Pakistan.

Although, the development of missile defense systems is defensive in nature, yet it dents the credibility of the offensive missiles, Jaspal writes in his op-ed Why Pakistan needs a strong missile defense system.”

“It destabilizes the deterrence stability, which is based on the threat of retaliation. Thus, the missile shield would unleash lethal arms race. It is because arsenal designed for deterrence must be able to survive an enemy first strike and still inflict unacceptable damage on the attacker.

The missile defense systems development obliges the security conscious nations to introduce more sophisticated striking weapons. The missile defense systems dent the credibility of the counterstrike capability of a deterring state. Therefore, the states need to improve their retaliatory arsenals just to maintain the same level of deterrence. They would manufacture more sophisticated multiple striking weapons such as independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRV), advance cruise missiles, laser weapons to hit satellites, etc. to enhance the credibility of counterstrike capability.

To conclude, the missile defense systems necessitate modernization and expanding of offensive forces for the sustainability of deterrence stability.”

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