NEW DELHI: Concerned over the prolonged delay of Indo-French joint venture to develop short-range surface-to-air missile (SRSAM) system, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has written to his Indian counterpart Arun Jaitley, expressing his government’s readiness to share high-end missile technology with India.
The SRSAM defence missile project is part of “Make in India” programme of Prime Minster Narendra Modi. In an official communication, Drian said the project would help India achieve maximum autonomy in the area of strategic missile system in a few years and create numerous highly skilled jobs.
Titled Maitri, the project, a joint development and production between India’s DRDO and MBDA of France, was initiated in 2007 and after six years of negotiations, a memorandum of understanding to co-develop the SRSAM was signed during French President Francois Hollande’s India visit in February 2013. In fact, in a joint statement it was then said that “steps are being taken for early finalisation of Maitri project”.
The Indian Navy and the Air Force project a requirement of at least 100 Maitri systems each. The Rs 30,000-crore project was aimed to fill the capability gap of air defence with the IAF and Navy.
“As a matter of fact, the project foresees that three years after signing of the contract, Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) will have an independent production capacity in Hyderabad and it will be able to deliver the first missile a year later,” Drian said in his letter to Jaitley.
Under the SRSAM programme, France would carry out a substantial transfer of technology to BDL, which will be the prime contract for production.
France has made it clear that technology sharing would take place exclusively in India and it would meet domestic requirements as well as future export market. Recently, the IAF had made some reservations over the project and recommended to replace it with domestic Akash missile. However, the South Block, which houses Ministry of Defence (MoD), has not taken a view on the IAF’s remarks.
“When the project involves two countries, we need to look at various aspects, especially when we have already signed an MoU. The IAF has made some reservations about the project, but the ministry has not taken any decision on it,” said a senior MoD official.
Contradicting the IAF claims, another MoD official said, “As far as I understand, there is no match between two missile systems. While the range of SRSAM will be of 40 km, Akash’s range is only 25 km. Moreover, the SRSAM will be much cheaper than Akash, if produced in India.”