NEW DELHI: Union Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, who will chair the meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on Saturday, is expected to decide on the fate of the Army’s long pending proposal to buy third-generation anti-tank guided missile systems worth an estimated `3,200 crore. Jaitley will have to take a call on whether to move forward with the Pentagon’s recent proposal for co-development and co-production of Javelin anti-tank guided missile system or go with Israel-made Rafael’s Spike ATGMS. During US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel’s recent visit to the country in August, the US had offered not only to “co-produce” the ATGMs but also “co-develop” its fourth-generation version with India.
For Saturday’s DAC, the Army proposed to buy third-generation Spike ATGM systems, including 321 missile launchers, 8,356 missiles and 15 training simulators along with the transfer of technology. The Army would mount these ATGMS on its infantry combat vehicles.
Incidentally, the Israeli firm was under the scanner during the erstwhile Congress led UPA-Government after the then Defence Minister A K Antony came to know that top-secret documents related to the deal were recovered from an arms dealer, who is currently in jail and facing trial under the Official Secret Act(OSA). After sensing that there was something fishy about the deal, Antony had in April last year ordered the freezing of the Spike missiles contract and ordered a technology scan to explore the possibility to procure similar ATGMS available on the global market, apparently to avoid single-vendor situation.
Recently, the Prime Minister’s Office had received an anonymous letter alleging manipulation in the defence deals during the UPA tenure, particularly hinting at the proposal of anti-tank guided missile systems for the Army. Sources have told Express that the PMO is indeed looking into the allegations.“The letter has cited lobbying that worked during the UPA tenure to push for Israel-made Spike ATGM as a single vendor for supply anti-tank missiles,” said an officer, privy to the development.
A senior Ministry of Defence(MoD) official said, “The idea of buying Spike ATGM system from Israel seems to be against the whole idea of ‘Make in India’ because the Army is going to procure it readymade from Israel.”
The Army had in 2008 issued a request for proposals for advanced ATGMs and only Rafael of Israel and Paris-based MBDA, responded to the RFP. Initially, the Army was keen to buy the American Javelin ATGMs, jointly produced by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. But, the deal fell through after the US did not permit technology transfer.
The DAC is likely to take up the `11,929 crore transport aircraft replacement of AVRO and the deal to procure 12 Dornier surveillance aircraft worth 1,800 crore and special operation vehicle for the IAF at a cost of 2,017crore.