Stalled SR-SAM: Parrikar Briefed Twice In A Month

European missile house MBDA is making a strong effort at the highest levels to give the comatose long-proposed joint Indo-French SR-SAM development programme new life. Top MBDA executives sought time with Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, meeting him twice in the last one month, to brief him about the SR-SAM (proposed to be called 'Maitri'). Sources say Parrikar heard out the MBDA executives but made no commitment, only saying that the representation would be looked into.

To be sure, it's a tricky situation for MBDA. The SR-SAM programme was all but sunk last year when the Indian Air Force said the Indian Akash SAM it deployed was sufficient for the short range air defence role, and that it didn't feel the need for a separate SR-SAM. The Akash SAM being a DRDO success means the latter is now perceived to have little or no incentive to partner with MBDA on the SR-SAM, but simply to continue working on the Akash and extend its range and capabilities for an anticipated Mk.2 version that the IAF and Indian Army are reportedly keen on.

Anticipating that situation, MBDA opened discussions late last year with DRDO, offering that the proposed SR-SAM, could be, in effect the Akash Mk.2 in terms of capability. The Akash SAM in service sports a range of 25-km, while the proposed SR-SAM is intended to hit targets out to a maximum of 40-km. It isn't clear just yet what the DRDO will choose to do. At any rate, the success of the Akash programme, and a rare public show of satisfaction from the forces gives DRDO more options, though the time factor could be key in a decision going forward.

"The aim of this programme, one of several initiatives within the Indo-French strategic dialogue, was to contribute to the development of the Indian defence industry. This would enable India to set up automated production lines for seeker, sub-assembly and full missile production. Despite SR-SAM ticking all the boxes regarding ToT, timescale, capability and equally economics, a decision is still to be made," MBDA officials told me.

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