Pune 06 July 2017 (PCP NEWS) : Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Israel is expected to witness the signing of a number of defense deals as New Delhi attempts to close the ever increasing military capability gap vis-à-vis China and Pakistan, which includes the purchase of two Falcon Early Warning, Command and Control Systems for about a 1 billion dollars for the Indian Air Force and 8,000 Spike anti-tank missiles, worth about 500 million dollars for the Army. The likely highlight of these deals will likely be India’s purchase of armed drones in the form of the Heron TP for their perceived utility by the India media in conducting “Surgical Strikes”.

India has been importing from Israel various Weapons Systems, Missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles over the last few years, making India one of Israel’s largest buyers of military hardware. The value of defense deals signed in recent months have exceeded 2 billion dollars. So far, budgetary constraints have meant that the Indian armed forces have not been able to quickly invest in technologically advanced platforms to leapfrog their war fighting capabilities.

The recent defense deals relating to the joint Indo-Israeli development of the Barak-8 Air Defence Missile Systems is reflective of India’s efforts towards indigenous modernization and fits in with Modi’s “Make in India” initiative. The Barak 8 surface to Air Missile capable of shooting Aircraft, Drones or Missile up to a range of 70 kilometers has been developed by Israeli Aerospace Industries and India’s Defense Research and Development Organisation in collaboration with a number of other Indian and Israeli companies and vendors.

The Barak 8 being acquired for all the three services will reduce the number of types of air defence systems operated by the Indian armed forces. It will improve affordability by reducing acquisition, operating, integration, and training costs. More importantly, it vastly improves India’s ground based air defence capability to defend its airspace from intrusions by the China or Pakistan when in the future it is paired with the longer range Russian-made S-400 Triumf advanced Air Defense Systems. Given the IAF’s claimed deficiencies in Fighter Air-frames which would affect traditional roles like air defense and policing, Air Defense Systems line the Barak-8 will play a critical role in defending Indian Airspace.

The emphasis in the media the acquisition of the Armed Heron TP for ‘Surgical strikes’ is indicative of how the ill-defined term has become the leading public and military understanding of military options available to India in responding to terrorism emanating Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). The use of UAV’s will permit Indian policymakers to exercise the use of force while substantially lowering the risk to military personnel and act as force multipliers in enhancing surveillance capabilities. In India’s case, the Indian military hopes that Armed UAV’s will give it the capability to conduct symbolic retaliatory attack against Pakistan based terrorists in while limiting the violation of Pakistani sovereignty and hoping to avoid any escalatory spiral.

The much vaunted Heron TPs are one of Israel Aerospace Industries’s more advanced UAVs with an endurance upwards of 30 hours, maximum takeoff weight of 5,300 kg and a potential weapons/mission payload of up to 1,000 kg. They can be used for both surveillance as well as combat and support roles, and can carry air-to-ground missiles to take out hostile targets. The acquisition of these weapons systems hold the potential to address significant capability gabs in the Indian military. PCP/DJ 11 30

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