The Indian Navy is in for another setback as the Defence Ministry has decided to put on hold the additional acquisition of 262 missiles for Israeli Barak-I anti-missile Defence (AMD) systems deployed on 14 frontline warships. The bid to get the missiles at a cost of more than $ 140 million is stalled due to a CBI probe into the kickbacks involved in the earlier deal.
The current decision to stall the acquisition of additional supplies of Barak–I missiles has majorly upset Indian Navy’s renewed bid to arm its Israeli Barak-I AMD on the Indian warships. As for the Indian Defence Ministry, it has stated that the ongoing CBI probe into the Barak kickbacks case has led to the stalling of the missile procurement.
At present, the Barak missile procurement case will not be forwarded to the Cabinet Committee of Security till the CBI probe is complete. As for the plight of the Indian Navy, it is only getting compounded since it is deprived of even the practice firings of the Barak-I AMD systems integrated into the 14 warships due to limited missile reserve stocks.
On the other hand, the CBI probe on the Barak kickbacks case has been stretching for six years now. Even though Defence Minister accepted the critical operational urgency for Barak missile acquisition into the force, it is helpless and cannot take it any further due to the CBI probe.
The saga of Barak –I AMD system began in 2000 when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) party signed the Rs 1,160 crore deal for nine Barak-I AMD systems along with 200 missiles worth Rs 350 crore, from Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Rafael. In 2006, under the UPA-I led government, the CBI registered the FIR in the Barak kickbacks case which involved the former Defence minister George Fernandes and former Navy chief Admiral Sushil Kumar among the accused.
The Barak-I systems acts as a close-in point Defence systems for warships to intercept incoming sea-skimming missiles with pin-point accuracy at a 9-km range. The Barak –I AMD systems are fitted on 14 frontline warships including the sole aircraft carrier INS Viraat and three new Shivalik-class stealth frigates. These missiles are vertically launched and use CLOS guidance in which a ship-borne radar monitors the intercept and continuously guides the missiles to the target.
As of now, India is in the final stages of developing long-range surface-to-air (LR-SAM) and medium-range SAM systems in collaboration with IAI. In the long run, Indian Navy intends to install medium-long-range SAM systems on future warships due to the limitations of short-range Barak-I system. Barak-I is capable of providing effective AMD only to a ship and not to a battle group or the fleet. Hence, in 2006, Barak-Next Generation (NG) agreement was conceived to provide a range of 60-70 km, an upgraded version of a familiar Barak-I system. This was done to augment India’s technological capabilities and to meet Indian Navy ships’ requirements of long-range advanced SAMs.