Indian VSHORADS competition progresses
The massive $6-billion Indian Army very short range air defence system (VSHORADS) competition, which looks to contract nearly 1,000 launcher systems and over 6,000 missiles, has progressed into a crucial phase which involves quality assurance tests at Bangalore and a check-out of the electronics systems on the three remaining contenders in Ladakh. The big-ticket bid is currently a three-way fight between the French MBDA Mistral, Sweden’s Saab RBS 70 NG and Russia’s KBM new generation Igla-S. Field evaluation trials of all three VSHORADS platforms were conducted in May in Rajasthan (hot weather trials), Visakhapatnam (coastal environmental trials) and Ladakh (high altitude, cold weather trials). All three teams are simultaneously in country for the critical phases in Bangalore and Ladakh. Discussions will also be conducted on transfer of technology to default licence manufacturing partner the Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL). So far, all three systems have performed to specifications and expectations, sources say. The Army is looking for a system that can be deployed in multiple configurations including man-portable, fitted on a twin-launcher, based on a high-mobility vehicle, ship-based and submarine based. The weapon systems fielded have so far demonstrated several capabilities during trials, including multiple target detection and tracking by day and night, providing target acquisition to the munition, engagement of aerial targets, etc.
As things stand, the competition could go either way, and the fight is fierce. Rosoboronexport, which displayed its Igla-S system at Defexpo 2012 is confident that its new generation system is a fitting replacement for the legacy MANPADS Igla currently in service with the Indian Army, and that type commonality could be a game-changer.
According to MBDA, “India is looking to replace its old Igla systems. With Mistral MANPADS in their inventory, India’s armed forces would have a system that weighs less than 19 kgs rendering it easily portable by two operators, rapidly brought into action and fired. Being a fire-and-forget system, once the immediate threat has been engaged, attention can then be turned towards other targets, a crucial advantage that man-in-the-loop laser beam riding systems do not have. For an enemy pilot, at ranges of up to 6 km and beyond, Mistral’s passive IR seeker means that it is very hard to detect and defend against.”
Saab contends, “The RBS 70 NG is on offer to the Indian Army to fill a crucial need gap. The all-new RBS 70 NG VSHORAD system is a versatile battlefield game changer and will offer critical edge in the spectrum of deployment. We believe that the RBS 70 NG meets and exceeds the requirements of the Indian Army for a system that has multiple target seeking and tracking capabilities, multi-launcher capability, ability to deploy from high mobility vehicles and ship and submarine naval vessels, ability to engage aerial targets by day and night and aerial target detection capability.”
Russia’s KBM new generation Igla-S
French MBDA Mistral
Sweden’s Saab RBS 70 NG