Defence News 26 May 2024

Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam are in talks to purchase the Astra Mark 1 missile from India to replace obsolete Russian R-77 missiles in their inventory. Larsen & Toubro has inaugurated a Simulation Center of Excellence for Airbus at its state-of-the-art campus in Bengaluru. Under a contract for 25 Dhruv Mark 3 helicopters, Hindustan Aeronautics has delivered a fresh batch of six Dhruv Mark 3 helicopters to the Indian Army.

Two former Indian Air Force fighter pilots have successfully developed a cutting-edge flight simulator, which offers a full 360-degrees range of motion, and replicates the G-forces experienced by pilots during real flight. Student officers at the prestigious Indian Air Force Test Pilot School embarked on familiarization visits to leading Indian aerospace companies, including New Space Research and Technologies. The initial batch of six limited-series production light utility helicopters that will be used for user trials and feedback by Indian Army and Air Force, will be delivered between December 2024 and June 2025.

Leaked documents have revealed, that the Congress government was worry of exporting of the BrahMos missiles to Philippines and Indonesia, as it didn’t wanted to offend China. The Ministry of External Affairs at that time had raised concerns about a BrahMos team planning a visit to the Philippines without obtaining political clearance, and the team was instructed to postpone their trip until clearance was granted. Similarly, a planned visit by the Indonesian delegation to the BrahMos Aerospace Office in New Delhi was called off.

The Indian Air Force’s MRFA program appears to be facing delays, as significant progress seems to be lacking. The MRFA program faces several hurdles, that includes finalizing the chosen aircraft type with eight contenders in the race, followed by negotiating a complex contract with a foreign manufacturer or government, that will be followed by integrating indigenous weaponry and adhering to Make in India provisions. Even with an optimistic timeline of a signed deal by 2026, the best case scenario for the first MRFA aircraft delivery wouldn’t be before 2029.

This delay could impact the combat readiness, and highlights the need for potential solutions like exploring options for quicker acquisition of fighter jets alongside pursuing the MRFA program. The Indo-Russian BrahMos missile is expected to face competition, as several countries have entered the supersonic anti-ship missile race, threatening to dethrone the BrahMos if it fails to adapt. Norway’s Kungsberg and Germany’s MBD are developing a supersonic anti-ship cruise missile, South Korea is developing a Mach 2.5 capable supersonic anti-ship missile with 300 km range, Japan is also developing a supersonic anti-ship cruise missile with a projected Mach 3 speed and a 400 km range by 2025, and France is also collaborating with the UK to develop supersonic anti-ship missiles by 2030.

Experts believe that if India fails to introduce a more advanced variant of BrahMos by 2027, it risks losing its unique position and edge in global market. The DRDO has been asked to develop a new variant of the Very Short Range Air Defense System for Indian Navy warships, that will be designed to function primarily as a point defense weapon, that will protect against loitering munitions and low-cost subsonic cruise missiles, similar to the Raytheon-developed rolling airframe missile used on US Navy warships. Apart from the naval Very Short Range Air Defense System, the Indian Navy will also utilize the VLSR SAM for added protection against incoming aerial threats, as well as long-range surface-to-air missile from Project KUSA.

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