Israeli arms maker Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has confirmed that India has pulled out of talks for the sale of half a billion dollars’ worth of Spike anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs).
The planned $500 million deal was reportedly for 1,600 Spike MR (meaning medium range) missiles. According to company literature, the fire and forget missiles have a range of 2.5 km and seek their targets ‘by means of an advanced electro-optic CCD/IIR seeker, sophisticated tracker and a highly precise guidance system.’
The Indian Army had selected Rafael’s Spike after extensive testing, edging out its chief rival the US-made Javelin.
‘Rafael regrets the decision and remains committed to cooperating with the Indian Ministry of Defence and to its strategy of continuing to work in India, an important market, as it has for more than two decades, to provide India with the most advanced and innovative systems,’ the company’s statement said, according to Reuters.
In anticipation of the deal, Rafael had begun collaborating with the Kalyani group to set up a manufacturing facility in Hyderabad.
NDTV cited anonymous sources as saying the facility would not be shut down and might be used for ‘a number of other projects Rafael is engaged in with its Indian partners’.
Rafael’s CEO, Yoav Har-Even will be accompanying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit five-day visit to India starting 14 January. He’s expected to make one final effort to revive the deal for Spike missiles.
Despite the failure of the proposed Spike deal, Israel remains one of India’s most important defence partners. On Tuesday, the defence ministry greenlighted a plan to buy 131 of Rafael’s Barak surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) for the Indian Navy.
Attention will now shift to DRDO’s homegrown Nag anti-tank missile system. In September, DRDO announced it had conducted two successful flight trials of the missile, marking an end to development trials.
Like the Spike family of missiles, the Nag is a third-generation ATGM, meaning its uses an autonomous target seeker that allows users to ‘fire and forget’ the missile instead of remaining in a vulnerable position to guide it. Nags reportedly have a maximum range of 4 kms (The long-range versions of the Spike have an official range of 5 kms).
However, despite its promise, the Indian Army has been reluctant to acquire the Nag, citing its high cost and other technical issues, according to Defense News.