As relations between nations strengthen, New Dehli asks for assistance in weapon development and UAV production

India is stepping up efforts to buy military equipment from Israel as part of a major drive to upgrade its weapons capabilities.

Relations between the countries have been strengthened after a recent visit to India by Israel prime minister Ariel Sharon. India has asked for Israel's help in completing several advanced missile programmes that have encountered cost and schedule overruns.

One of these, the sea-skimming Dhanush missile, failed its first flight test in April last year, and has yet to satisfy Indian navy requirements for a short-range anti-ship weapon. The Indian navy is apparently looking for Israel's help in developing a variant of the missile, capable of striking land targets within a range of 500km (270nm). Another programme, the Agni intermediate-range ballistic missile, is also the subject of co-operation talks.

India is also keen on launching a joint venture with Israel for production of unmanned air vehicles, and is close to finalising a deal, approved by the USA in August, for three Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) Phalcon early-warning aircraft. The Phalcon would be mounted on a modified Ilyushin Il-76 transport.

The USA is, however, likely to block Indian moves to purchase Israel's Arrow anti-tactical ballistic missile as international concerns grow over the dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. India already operates the Green Pine phased-array radar, which forms part of the Arrow system and was sold to India in a downsized version that will be carried on balloons deployed along the border with Pakistan.

IAI is also hoping to sell its air-launched version of the Gabriel Mk3 anti-ship missile to India, while Rafael is offering its beyond-visual-range Derby air-to-air missile, but as a mobile surface-to-air system with improved capabilities.

The Derby, developed with South African funding in the late 1980s, was a classified programme until last year. Rafael is offering a version of the missile that would be mounted on a high-mobility vehicle such as the US high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle.

Source: Flight International