Indian army rejects homegrown missile in blow to ‘Make in India’

Nikkei Asian Review

May 7, 2016 5:50 pm JST

YUJI KURONUMA, Nikkei staff writer

Indian soldiers display Akash missiles during the full-dress rehearsal for the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on Jan. 23, 2009. © Reuters

NEW DELHI — The Indian army reportedly plans to import missiles from abroad rather than continue buying a less-advanced locally developed system, prioritizing combat capabilities over government efforts to promote domestic manufacturing.

Not up to snuff

“There were technical, research-oriented issues” with India’s Akash system, a Ministry of Defense official told the Nikkei Asian Review. The military has finished testing Israeli, Russian and Swedish alternatives, with Israel’s Spyder in the lead, the official said.

The ministry’s Defense Research and Development Organization had worked on the Akash surface-to-air missile system for around three decades, intending to supply the army, navy and air force. The army has ordered two regiments’ worth, and the air force has ordered 15 squadrons’ worth, for a total of 250 billion rupees ($3.75 billion). The army had been expected to buy more, as it needs to deploy six missile regiments along the borders with Pakistan and China. The Akash has a range of 25km.

The army has informed the R&D agency that it will not order any more Akash systems, a source said. The Akash requires eight to nine seconds to fire, compared with just four to five seconds for the Spyder, making the homegrown system more likely to fail to intercept targets in border areas where response time is limited. Its lack of the latest guidance technology was apparently also a concern to the army.

Contract negotiations with Israel “will be started sometime later,” a ministry official said. The military expects to negotiate the price of the Spyder down to a level on a par with the Akash.

The Akash’s technical weaknesses owe to more than a decade of development delays. The navy has avoided the Akash, citing stabilization problems, and the air force is unlikely to put in any more orders.

Security analyst Rajeev Sharma argued that the capabilities of the R&D agency, which is tasked with developing more sophisticated military technology, are lacking. The Akash is “meeting the same fate as Arjun,” the indigenous tank developed by the DRDO over 20 years, “which has no more buyers now due to its weaker features,” Sharma said. The government replaced the agency’s head last year.

Arms race

Pakistan and China, which have locked horns with India in South Asia for years, have been building up their militaries. Pakistan is strengthening its aerial forces, marketing the JF-17 fighter jointly developed with China to Asian countries including Myanmar and Sri Lanka while seeking to buy F-16 jets built by American defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

The U.S. decided Monday against extending $430 million in foreign military financing to Pakistan, requiring Islamabad to fully fund the F-16 purchase on its own. But this has not fazed Pakistan, which can still buy from China or Russia.

Though Pakistan’s military spending is just a fifth of India’s, Beijing spends four times as much as New Delhi. With Pakistan and China building closer defense and economic ties, the Indian military urgently needs to update its old equipment centering on gear from Russia.

But it faces budgetary constraints. India’s military spending ranks sixth in the world, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Defense expenditures account for 9% of its budget, topping China’s 6% and Japan’s 2%. The country is the world’s top weapons importer, an expense that weighs on its finances and its balance of payments.

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the government has promoted local production to pave the way for cheaper weapons procurement. It raised the foreign ownership cap in the defense industry from 26% to 49% in 2014. Businesses in India’s private sector are joining hands with foreign companies in such arrangements as a joint venture by the Tata group with Boeing on military aircraft production.

But the Akash decision is seen as a message from the Defense Ministry that it does not “compromise on operational readiness, irrespective to the location of manufacturing,” an Indian defense expert said. With government approval required for foreign stakes in defense contractors exceeding 49%, many overseas companies hesitate to transfer cutting-edge technology to India. And the military now looks less likely to accept equipment that is a step down.

New Delhi had hoped that a shift to domestic production would let it strengthen the military while saving money. For now, though, the country will likely need to keep relying largely on imports.



See related post: 

Enough of Akash, says Army as it opts for Israeli missiles

Rafael to offer air systems to India through new JVSee details of  Spyder short-range defence system

6 thoughts on “Indian army rejects homegrown missile in blow to ‘Make in India’

  1. Vectra

    Yes many sites shows the same and all are just copy pasting the Indian media articles who usually gets confused on military matter overall while reporting.This confusion has lead to official clarification by Indian Defence Minister that unlike Akash MRSAM India has not yet developed the Akash SR/Akash QRSAM and that is why to fill the void as of now India is buying the QRSAM from abroad as a stop gap measure until India develops its own QRSAM which will obviously take some time.But still media keep on reporting the same wrong article for which i have no idea.


  2. Vectra

    What a piece of confused article,Indian Army has not rejected the home grown missiles infact it has the already ordered and inducted it.What the Indian Army ordered is QRSAM which is different from home grown SAM which is MRSAM.
    QRSAM are basically SR SAM different from MRSAM,Since India has developed the hime grown MRSAM but not QRSAM so India is buying the QRSAM as stop gap measure until India develops its own QRSAM as said by its Defence Minister.


      1. Vectra

        Yes IAF has bought SPYDER-MR back in 2008 when the current home grown MRSAM was in final testing phase.Now after the successful testing IAF has until now inducted and on order around a 15 squadron (8 Akash squadrons inducted + 7 on order) with each squadron consist of 125 missiles.IAF was so satisfied with its performance they they severly opposed and rejected the French offer to build similar Maitri MRSAM in JV with state owned R&D agency DRDO.IAF is no longer buying SPYDER-MR

        Similarly Indian Army too has as of now inducted and on order around 2 Akash regiments (or 10-12 squadron as one regiment is equal to 5 or 6 squadrons) of MRSAM approximately 2,000 missiles — worth $3.1 billion.These will replace the Indian Army’s 2 SA-6 Groups (25 systems with 1,500 missiles)

        SOo yes you are right that Indian Army is looking for SPYDER as well but unlike IAF which has ordered the SPYDER-MR version back in 2008 the Indian Army is looking for SPYDER-SM version not SPYDER-MR versions as SPYDER-SM as i said is also called QRSAM.For MRSAM Indian Army used homegrown Akash MRSAM.

        So the above article is giving false informations.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Numbskull

      The Akash system is a real piece of shit; jets like the MiG-31 and also the F-15 actually have higher top speeds than the Akash !



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