“True Partnership paves the way for IAI in India” Vayu in discussion with Eli Alfassi of IAI
Over the past three decades, India and Israel have established strong and friendly relations that span technology, space, agriculture and tourism. But defence cooperation has dominated from the start, boosting cooperation between the two countries to new heights. As Israel’s leading aerospace and defence conglomerate, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has led many joint programmes evolving with India, providing aerial refueling capabilities, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), airborne early warning aircraft, various radars and many other defence systems and capabilities. Today, systems and products developed and produced by IAI are operational with the air, land and naval services of India, along with other government agencies. From the beginning, IAI was open and ready to cooperate with Indian companies and organisations and have leveraged this partnership to expand and win new business.”
One of the leading programmes that IAI is currently pursuing is the Medium Range Surface- Air Missile system ( MRSAM). Launched in 2006 to become the principal air defence system for the Indian and Israel navies, MRSAM was gradually adopted by other customers and is now established as a world leading three-service air defence systems.
Over the 12- year development, MRSAM sets an example for a successful joint programme. Initially the joint development phase was led by IAI, while the production, integration, delivery and testing was managed by the Indian partners – the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).
Today, MRSAM represents much more than the naval air defence system it was. The system has evolved into a long range, wide area air defence capability adopted by the Indian Air Force for the defense of fixed sites and relocatable, extended air defense capability to be operated by the Indian Army. All three Indian services, as well as Israeli and other operators, operate systems based on a common core that was developed under cooperation between the DRDO and IAI; each configuration was designed, adapted and tuned to best meet the specific service requirements and utilise the resources and capabilities already invested in the system. “This is an unprecedented undertaking, where such indigenous, cutting-edge technology is harnessed to provide for the needs of multiple Indian and Israeli users.” IAI Executive VP Marketing, Eli Alfassi stated.
According to Alfassi, the MRSAM project is also an excellent example of joint development and production that fully endorses the strategic ‘ Make In India’ vision. “Since the beginning, the programme embraced a true cooperation and partnership and has implemented the spirit of ‘Make In India’ vision, even before this policy came into effect,” Alfassi said. Through the past decade, the programme has expanded to take new challenges, gradually increasing the Indian workshare as the Indian partners assume a growing responsibility for development and production.
A major milestone in the programme was assigning Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) as the prime contractor and lead integrator for the upcoming naval programmes. In this role, BEL is also responsible for the highly complex acceptance tests at sea, clearing the MRSAM systems on each and every vessel that receives the system. Another major partner, Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) is the integrator for the interceptor missiles that equip the MRSAM systems.
“Aligned with the evolving Indian policies, as part of the offset obligations, we have been buying Indian subsystems and services worth nearly $800 millions from 80 Indian suppliers. We intend to increase our work here, adding more Indian suppliers in the future,” Eli Alfassi noted. IAI, Dynamatics Technologies Limited and Sun Group are working to establish a JV for UAVs, seeking opportunities in this field. Another planned JV with Mahindra addresses the field of defence electronics, radars and communications, and a third, with Bharat Forge Limited ( BFL), will seek opportunities in smart munitions - programmes involving missiles, guided projectiles and loitering munitions.