Israeli Rafael Apologises To DRDO For Fake Info On NAG Missile

After DRDO reacting angrily, Israeli Rafael apologises to DRDO for circulating fake information on NAG missile, saying the Israeli missile was superior to an under-development DRDO weapon and the indigenous programme needed a rethink. The statement also said that the Indian Army had been using outdated second-generation missiles for three decades and the Spike missile was the only one to qualify as a replacement for the existing inventory with the negotiations completed in 2016.

Israeli Rafael apologises to DRDO for fake info on NAG Missile
Israeli Rafael apologises to DRDO for fake info on NAG Missile

Israeli Rafael takes a dig at DRDO

Public relations consultancy Adfactors PR issued the statement on Thursday to announce the firing by the army of two newly acquired Spike long-range anti-tank missiles at the Infantry School at MHOW in Madhya Pradesh.

Two years ago, India was in advanced stages of negotiating the purchase of 321 launchers and 8,356 fire-and-forget missiles from the Israeli firm Rafael in a deal worth $500 million, but it abandoned the plan in favour of indigenous manufacturing.

A limited quantity of Spike missiles was ordered as a stopgap arrangement and the DRDO was asked to develop the ATGMs for the army’s infantry and mechanised infantry units to provide impetus to the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

The statement said that the Indian Army had been using outdated second-generation missiles for three decades and the Spike missile was the only one to qualify as a replacement for the existing inventory with the negotiations completed in 2016.

“…the Indian Army may need to revisit their plans for 3rd Gen missiles. Both the DRDO ATGM programme, and the invitation to Indian industry to develop a 3rd Gen missile will need a rethink, as having a 4th Gen missile will make the plan for development of a 3rd Gen missile questionable,” it said.

DRDO reacts angrily

Defence Research and Development Organisation on Friday trashed reports based on a statement released by Israeli defence firm Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd stating that its Spike anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) was superior to an under-development DRDO weapon and the indigenous programme needed a rethink.

Reacting to the development, the DRDO tweeted, “A News item relating to Spike Missile testing at the Infantry school MHOW purportedly based on a press release is circulating incorrect facts. The DRDO ATGM is a state of art missile in advanced stages of development.” MHOW is short for the military headquarters of war.

Rafael apologises to DRDO

After DRDO’s angry reaction, now the Israeli firm Rafael has apologized to Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems has apologised to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for questioning its programme to develop man portable Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM), saying it was unintended.

“We apologise for any unintended communication that has triggered emotional misbalance,” said a late night  press release issued by its PR firm on Friday. The statement said that Rafael Advanced Defense System affirms and applauds the work done by DRDO in building new age technologies for India.

The Indian Army has acquired 210 man portable anti-tank Spike missiles to be deployed at the border with Pakistan from Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, which has established a joint venture with the Kalyani Group in India. Indian Army on Wednesday test fired two newly-acquired Spike missiles at the Infantry School at Mhow, Madhya Pradesh.

India had shelved plans to buy ATGM from private firm in favour of indigenous development by the DRDO. However, to meet its urgent security requirement Army acquired Spike missiles from Rafael.

DRDO defends NAG missiles

Nag, the 3rd gen ATGM, was in the process of being inducted after extensive tests. The MPATGM, in an advanced stage of development, defence sources said, was a fourth generation ATGM. Six tests had been conducted so far and all developmental trials were over, a defence source said. “In a year it will be ready for production.” The Nag missile, the best in its class, was built for Indian conditions, officials said.

During summers, in desert conditions the temperature of a battle tank and the sand were the same, the source said and added that “identifying that and firing is a challenge.”

Another official termed the statement on Spike test-firing “unacceptable”. He said it questioned the entire Indian capability. “We now have the capability to build complex systems as per specifications. Our private industry has also come a long way and can support the development,” he added.

Earlier, the Army tried to procure a large number of ATGMs and for this, trials were held and the Spike was short-listed. However, the tender was cancelled during the cost negotiation phase and attempts to procure some systems through an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) did not fructify either. The government then decided to fill the requirement through the indigenous MPATGM.

The Spike-LR being procured is a different variant from the one tested and short-listed as part of the earlier procurement for over 8,000 missiles and 300 launchers along with technology transfer.

Earlier, before the IGA was concluded, Army sources stated that some validatory trials of the Infrared Seeker (IR) of the missile would be held during Indian summers, as the missile “did not perform as desired in the previous trials during peak summer temperatures in the desert.” The validatory trials were not conducted as the IGA fell through.

The controversy over Israeli Spike missile deal

In 2017, the $500 million Spike anti-tank missile deal was canceled so that we can develop our own indigenous defence technology. The deal however was ‘back on table’ after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India. But the deal was delayed after the missile failed to perform in high temperature conditions during field test, as demanded by Indian Army. On 4th October, a lot of 210 of Israeli Spike missiles were inducted into the Indian Army, being touted as Israeli ‘Tank Killers’, even so it failed in earlier test compared to exceptional performance of indigenous NAG missile everytime.

Timeline of the Israeli Spike Missile Deal

  • Sept 2017 – DRDO twice successfully flight-tested NAG missile against two different targets
  • Nov 2017 – Israeli Spike deal canceled so that we can develop our own indigenous NAG missiles
  • Jan 2018 – Spike ‘back on table’ after Israeli PM’s visit to India
  • Feb 2018 – NAG successfully destroys 2 tanks with single-shot hit probability of 0.77 (later improved to 0.90); declared ‘induction-ready’
  • Jul 2018 – HeliNa, helicopter-launched Nag missile successfully destroys 2 targets, misses one
  • Apr 2019 – Rs 280 crore deal concluded for 210 Israeli Spike missiles under emergency powers
  • Jun 2019 – Larger revived Spike deal canceled again due to failed tests, emergency purchase ontrack
  • Jul 2019 – NAG missile successfully tested 12 times under extreme weather conditions
  • Sept 2019 – NAG missile successfully met all the mission objectives with precision
  • Oct 2019 – First lot of 210 Israeli Spike missiles inducted into Indian Army

Murky dealings under scanner

It is notable that the intelligence agencies are closely monitoring the business dealings of the defence industries. Rafael Advanced Defence System Limited, the manufacturer of Spike missiles, has a tie up with Gurgaon-based firm, Defsys Solutions Private Limited, for the manufacture of Electro Optical Pods for the Indian Air Force. Incidentally, one of the promoters of Defsys Solutions, Sushen Mohan Gupta, was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case. Gupta’s arrest was made on the basis of disclosures by another accused, Rajiv Saxena, who was recently deported from the United Arab Emirates.

The ED suspects that Sushen Mohan Gupta, an alleged defence agent, was instrumental in routing of funds through several overseas and domestic companies during the VVIP chopper deal. Intelligence sources claim that Arvind Khanna, one of the original promoters of the Defsys Solutions, also came under scanner for multiple defence deals. Khanna’s father, Vipin Khanna, has been booked by the CBI in the $209 million Embraer aircraft deal.

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