India Buys Israeli “SPYDER” Mobile Air Defense System
Israel’s SPYDER air defense system follows a recent trend of using advanced air-air missiles designed for fighter jets as ground-launched surface-to-air missiles (SAM). This truck-mounted system mixes radar and optical tracking with any combination of short to medium-range Derby 4 and ultra-agile short-range 5th generation Python 5 air to air missiles, in order to create a versatile system adapted for a wider range of threats. Hence its inclusion in in our AMRAAM FOCUS article’s “international competitors” section.
India has become the system’s inaugural export customer. SPYDER will reportedly replace India’s Russian-made OSA-AKM/SA-8 Gecko and ZRK-BD Strela-10M/ SA-13 Gopher SAM systems, and the purchase has decisively shelved the Indian DRDO’s failed Trishul project.
More success may be on the way. As India’s Air Force gears up, the Army is reportedly about to follow suit with an even bigger contract.
The SPYDER System
Each SPYDER ADS-SR Mobile Firing Unit can slant-launch up to 4 missiles in either lock on after launch (LOAL) mode, or lock on before launch (LOBL). This short-range version offers 360 degree quick engagement capability and 60-target tracking via IAI’s Elta EL/M 2106 ATAR 3D surveillance radar and TOPLITE optical sensor, a kill range of over 15 km, and openly advertised effectiveness from 20 – 9,000 meters (65 – 30,000 feet).
A new SPYDER ADS-MR 6×6 truck version was unveiled at Eurosatory 2006. It’s restricted to LOAL but offers 8 vertical-launch missiles in any mix, adds a dedicated radar vehicle with a more powerful radar, and puts boosters on all missiles, in order to improve advertised range to 50 km/ 30 miles, and performance to 16 km/ 52,000 feet.
A typical SPYDER squadron consists of 1 Mobile Command and Control Unit, plus 4 Mobile Firing Units with their own built-in power supplies and missile sets of 4-8 missiles.
Contracts and Key Events: India
Aug 18/09: Indian Army’s QR-SAM. The Times of India reports that India’s Ministry of Defence has finally given the go-ahead for the army’s INR 40 billion (about $820 million) Quick-Reaction SAM program. These mobile missiles would protect Indian maneuver elements like armored columns and troop concentrations, as well as important areas and installations. The Army seeks to equip 3 regiments with this contract, which is over twice the size of the IAF’s 18 squadron purchase. The Times of India:
“With the indigenous Akash and Trishul air defence projects not meeting its “user-requirements”… The Defence Acquisitions Council, chaired by defence minister A K Antony, discussed the entire matter on Monday. Though there was no official word, sources said the Israeli SpyDer QR-SAM systems had been selected for the project.
…The projects were in a limbo for quite some time now, with one of the main reasons being the naming of Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Rafael in the Rs 1,160-crore Barak-I deal kickbacks case by the CBI. The government, however, was reluctant to blacklist these Israeli armament firms because it held that it would prove “counter-productive” since there were several “crucial” defence projects underway with them.”
Jan 20/09: SR-SAM – Revenge of DRDO? India Defence reports that neither MBDA nor India’s state-run DRDO have given up on their “SR-SAM” short range air defense proposal. Rumors peg it as a combination of DRDO’s Trishul and MBDA’s VL-MICA system, though Trishul’s failure and VL-MICA’s techologies mean that claims regarding Trishul technology are likely to be about saving face as much as anything else.
The “Maitri” LLQRM proposal’s positioning would be directly competitive with RAFAEL’s SPYDER, and VL-MICA is deployable as a mobile system. That could affect SPYDER’s future expansion within the Indian military, and might even affect its prospects if program problems crop up. MICA’s capabilities mean that SR-SAM/Maitri would also be directly competitive with India’s indigenous Akash, and might even impinge on the proposed medium range MR-SAM deal involving a longer-range Barak missile.
Dec 11/08: The Indian Ministry of Defence confirms that it has signed the Spyder contract – and canceled Trishul. Defence Minister Shri AK Antony, in a written reply to Shri Tarini Kanta Roy in Rajya Sabha:
“Ministry of Defence has signed a contract with M/s Rafael, Israel to procure Spyder Low Level Quick Reaction Missile System (LLQRM) for the Indian Air Force.
The proposal for Trishul system was foreclosed due to its inability to meet certain critical operational requirements. However, it served as a technology demonstrator and the expertise acquired with the technologies developed during design and development phase of Trishul Missile System are being utilized for developing state-of-the-art Short Range Surface to Air Missile System.”
Costs were not disclosed, though some reports place the deal at $260 million; previous reports of R 18,000 crore would be about $362 million at current exchange rates. Nor was the future composition of India’s Spyder force; Spyder systems now come in the 8-pack, booster-enabled SPYDER ADS-MR, and the 4-pack SPYDER ADS-SR. Indian MoD | domain-b.
Oct 13/08: DNA India reports that a new order from the Union government downgraded both IAI and RAFAEL’s position as weapon suppliers to India, and may place the Spyder contract in jeopardy. The issue is not expected to sort itself out until after the 2009 Parliamentary elections. Read “India Downgrades Vendor Status of IAI and RAFAEL” for more.
Sept 1/08: The Spyder contract was delayed for almost 2 years by political accusations, but those have apparently been put to rest. Defense News reports that a $260 million contract has now been signed with Rafael. The Indian Air Force will receive 18 Spyder systems, with deliveries beginning in early 2011 and finishing by August 2012. Unusually, the contract will not include any mandatory industrial offsets.
March 19/07: Reports indicate that MBDA is working on a deal with the DRDO, whose Trishul short range anti-aorcraft missile project continues to flounder. DRDO’s Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) would team with MBDA to develop a “new-generation low-level, quick-reaction missile (LLQRM) system” known as ‘Maitri’, for the Indian Navy and Air Force. India Defence.
The project is said to be worth $500 million and is to be signed in May between the Hyderabad-based DRDL and MBDA. It is retry to revive the work done under the unsuccessful Trishul LLQRM project,
October 2006: India Defence quoted Air Chief SP Tyagi as saying India is close to wrapping up a deal to purchase quick reaction surface-to-air missiles from Israel as a mobile air defense system. Under the deal, India proposed to buy 18 SPYDER (Surface-to-air PYthon and DERby) missile systems and accompanying missiles in a deal worth more than Rs 1,800 crores (18 billion Indian rupees, or about $395.4 million at the time). RAFAEL would be the prime contractor, and Israel Aircraft Industries the major subcontractor.
- RAFAEL – SPYDER ADS-MR
- RAFAEL – SPYDER ADS-SR
- RAFAEL – Python 5: Full Sphere IR Air-to-Air Missile
- RAFAEL – Derby: Beyond visual Range Air-to-Air Missile
- Israeli Weapons – SPYDER
- Army Technology – SPYDER Surface-to-Air Python 5 and Derby Air Defence Missile System, Israel
- DID – India’s IGMP Missile Programs. Including the canceled Trishul and the medium range Akash SAM.
- DID – India & Israel Introducing MR-SAM. Based on a longer-range version of the Barak missile.