Israel, India to Cooperate on Long-Range Barak Naval SAM
In December 2005, DID discussed a number of India’s indigenous missile projects, and the fact that over their 20+ year development histories, the country had frequently needed to buy substitutes abroad. The exception was the Russian-Indian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, which was modified from an existing Russian design and has been outstandingly successful.
It would appear that the BrahMos model’s lessons have sunk in, because one of the missiles DID had covered may be about to go by the wayside in favor of a $350 million international project based on a modified Israeli Barak surface-air missile.
Defense News reports that India and Israel have finalized their biggest defense development agreement: The state-owned Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) in Hyderabad, and Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI) reportedly signed a pact on January 27, 2006 for the joint development and production of a long-range version of the Barak (Heb. “Lightning”) air defense system. A senior scientist of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) reportedly said that the 50/50 shared program has an estimated cost of about $350 million over the next five years. Additional funding will be infused by both parties as needed.
Under this agreement, the DRDL and IAI will develop six long-range Barak systems for India’s new Russian warships. Procurement by Israel’s navy could well follow, and India’s Army and Air Force also have projected requirements for medium-long range air defense systems. There are also reports that the Barak-I and the Barak-II missiles will be used as phased replacements for the aging Russian OSA-M and Volna RZ-31 missiles still in operation on most Indian warships. Indian Navy personnel pointed to the inherent advantage of the Barak family’s digital systems over the analog computers that guide the Russian missiles.
So what’s the Barak, and what role has it played in India?
Barak is a supersonic, vertically-launched short range air defense system. It is currently in service with at least India, Israel, Singapore, and Venezuela, and possibly several other countries as well. India has bought over $300 million worth of these missiles as a substitute for the indigenous but long-delayed Trishul (“Trident”) missile project, and Barak systems now equip many of the ships in India’s Navy. The missile’s fast response time, effectiveness against missile threats, and compact size are considerable assets, but they are currently offset somewhat by a range of only 10 km/ 6 miles or so.
India’s Navy has now decided as a matter of policy that it will only mount long-range surface-to-air missile systems on future warships. This is an early sign of its transition to a more of a “blue water” navy that can reach into high-threat areas, and a logical complement to India’s establishment of a serious carrier force beginning with INS Vikramaditya (ex Admiral Gorshkov). Hence this agreement which gives India an upgraded version of a familiar system, extends India’s technological capabilities, fosters economic ties and integration at sub-component levels, and helps the Israelis build a new system that meets some of their own emerging requirements. The new system would have a range of 50-60 km.
Making that happen required some loosening of bureaucratic constraints on India’s defense industry. Based on projections of need and the high cost of air defense systems, India’s Ministry of Defence has approved initiatives under which Indian state-owned agencies can forge joint co-development and co-production ventures with foreign companies. The rationale is that under these partnerships, much of the underlying technology will remain in India.
Given the natural closeness between Barak’s role and Trishul’s roles, and the status of the Barak Extended Range as a joint project that India can also say it “owns,” the Trishul missile project’s long-term survival appears highly unlikely. The medium-range Akash, which DID noted as one of the two systems with likely export prospects, could also be in trouble.
- See “India & Israel’s Barak SAM Development Project(s)” for expanded coverage, and all updates.
Additional Readings & Sources
- Defense Update – Barak-8 MR-SAM project
- Defence News (Feb 2/06) – India, Israel Will Jointly Develop Next-Gen Long-Range Naval Barak SAM System
- The Indian Express (Oct 12/06) – What CBI doesn’t say: Trishul a DRDO dud, that’s why Barak deal
- ExpressIndia (Feb 7/06) – India, Israel tie up on next-gen Barak missiles
- The Tribune of India (Feb 2/06) – India, Israel to develop long-range Barak defence system
- DID (updated) – India Gears Up To Begin Exporting Missiles. Covers the BrahMos, Trishul short-range SAM, Akash medium-range SAM, and Nag anti-armor missile.
- Bharat-Rakshak – Trishul SAM
- GlobalSecurity – Trishul (Trident) air-defense missile. Clips a lot from Indian press releases, take with a grain of salt. Does describe some of the program’s difficulties, but only goes to about 2003.
- Israeli Weapons – Barak. Also notes that that India’s orders of the Barak missile to date have totaled at least $360 million.
- Israel Aircraft Industries – Barak Ship Point Defense System
- Bharat-Rakshak – Barak SAM. Lists ships on which these missiles are installed.