Indo-Israel Defence Co-operation – Naval Perspective

The military business between the two nations has flourished to multi-billion dollar enterprise, giving rise to not just wide ranging acquisitions but several successful state-of-the-art joint ventures on munitions, military hardware, core systems, etc

Issue: 1 / 2016By Rear Admiral Sushil Ramsay (Retd)

Bilateral relations between India and Israel in the key facets of economic, military, and strategic domain have witnessed significant development, both in quantitative and qualitative terms. As a result of the growing bilateral relations between the two countries over the past two decades, India has emerged as the largest buyer of Israeli military hardware, equipment and consequently Israel has leapfrogged to being the second-largest defence supplier to India after Russia. The military business between the two nations has flourished to multi-billion dollar enterprise, giving rise to not just wide ranging acquisitions but several successful state-of-the-art joint ventures on munitions, military hardware, core systems, etc. Military and strategic ties between the two nations now extend to intelligence sharing on terrorist groups and joint military training which are considered key elements of strategic partnership.

As of 2014, India is the third-largest Asian trade partner of Israel, and tenthlargest trade partner overall. In 2014, bilateral trade, excluding military sales, stood at US$4.52 billion. As of 2015, the two nations were negotiating an extensive bilateral free trade agreement, focusing on areas such as information technology, biotechnology, agriculture, etc.

The litmus test of the growing strategic relationship between the two countries was when Israel at the most crucial times supplied weapons and ammunition which enabled India in winning the Kargil War against Pakistan in 1999. Israel also provided humanitarian relief to India. Following a devastating earthquake in 2001, Israel sent an IDF emergency response delegation to India for two weeks to provide humanitarian relief and treatment for the victims.

In November 2002, the head of Israel’s space research programme, Colonel Avi Hareven, and the head of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Dr K. Kasturirangan, signed an agreement on space cooperation between the two countries.

The key to the growing India-Israel ties, however, is in the realm of security and defence. Israel has sold radar and surveillance systems as well as electronic components for military aircraft and has helped India defence itself through training in counterterrorism methods. Also in 2011, India placed orders for four advanced Israeli Phalcon AWACS planes (airborne warning and control systems) which are capable of detecting hostile aircraft, cruise missiles and other incoming aerial threat far before ground-based radars. In July 2014, a repeat order for additional two AWACS was placed on Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).

India expressed deep interest in the delivery of long-range anti-missile defence system for Indian naval ships. The joint development project was announced in 2005 with original delivery schedule was in 2012. IAI successfully test fired IAI-DRDO joint venture Barak 8 anti-missile defence system for the Indian Navy(IN) on November 10, 2014. Since then Barak 8 MR-SAM has been successfully installed of several frontline ships of the IN, including aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya. Simultaneously, Barak-NG, Long Range SAM has also been successfully test fired and now being inducted on board newly commissioned INS Kolkata. This development fulfils the long standing aspiration of the IN to equip its frontline ships with LRSAM as the standard AMD outfit.

The IN presently has a squadron of Searcher Mark II and Heron. These are located at Kochi and Porbandar. Plans are afoot to induct additional squadrons for deployment in southern peninsula and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. All of these Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are deployed for surveillance and reconnaissance missions from respective base ports. The IN has been increasing the use of UAVs and drones for coastal surveillance, as well as for reconnaissance missions at sea. From 2000 onwards, India has acquired Searcher II and Heron UAVs designed by IAI. Israeli aerospace firms are once again leading the fray for India’s upcoming tender for the acquisition of 95 UAVs. At least two Israeli firms, including Innocon, Blue Bird Aero systems and Elbit Systems have expressed their interest in offering their UAVs for IN and Air Force. A requirement of ship-based rotary UAVs is under active consideration to provide integral surveillance and reconnaissance capability to the surface ships at extended ranges at sea.

With a thrust to provide further boost to the indigenous capability to develop UAVs and the Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles (UCAV) there are plans for DRDO sponsored three Rustom UCAVs and one ground station for $60 million with 12 more to come; 10 MALE Rustoms at a cost of $225 million; four Pawan mini UAVs for $33.2 million; 50 air- and ship-launched Nirbhay UAVs; three rotary UAVs at a cost of $232 million; unspecified numbers of Netra micro UAVs for $50,000 per unit; and Gagan tactical UAVs at a cost of $55 million with help from Israel.

IAI - RAMTA

A prominent manufacturer of naval related products, RAMTA Division is a supplier of patrol crafts such as the Super Dvora MK II Patrol Craft. With a length of 27 meters, and weighing 70 ton, the Super Dvora MK II is an advanced multi-mission fast patrol craft, capable of supporting a variety of sensor and weapons suites, and carrying out littoral and deep water missions such as search and rescue missions, surveillance, complex activities in cooperation with additional ground, air and naval systems, in addition to offering protection against a wide range of potential threats.

Ramta’s core competency includes the following:

  • Maritime (multi mission patrol and interdiction craft)
  • Ground Systems (light armoured vehicles, armoured platforms, anti-magnetic mines systems, robotic systems)
  • Metallic and composite Aero structures (build-to-spec, build-to-print)

Elbit Systems

Elbit Systems Ltd. is an Israel-based international defence Electronics Company engaged in a wide range of programmes throughout the world. Elbit Systems is therefore well positioned to meet the challenge, with over three decades of experience in design and development of high performance naval systems. Moreover, decades of expertise in the areas of radar, navigation, communications, command & control, electronic warfare (EW), electronic support measures (ESM) and electronic intelligence (ELINT) have resulted in the ability to offer comprehensive solutions, systems integration, services and long term support for naval customers. Elbit System’s combat experience is expressed in a broad range of systems including shipboard combat management systems assuring information dominance over potential enemies, supporting a Common Tactical Picture, shortening decision cycles and executing rapid, accurate weapon engagement. Its submarine ELINT systems detect and recognize threats under dense electromagnetic conditions. These systems are installed on the Israel Navy’s Dolphin class submarines and are also installed on submarines of several other navies worldwide. Elbit Systems are the prime integrator in turnkey naval platform upgrades which include full systems integration and technology transfer. The Company has decades of expertise in naval C4I, radar, weapon systems, navigation, sonar and EW, to equip customers with advanced, cost-effective combat suites to meet the missions ahead.

The Company also focuses on the upgrading of existing military platforms, developing new technologies for defence, homeland security and commercial aviation applications and providing a range of support services, including training and simulation systems.

In 2006, India sought Israeli expertise in the production of key surveillance systems. India’s DRDO faced technical difficulties with the Divya Drishti surveillance project. However, Elbit Systems, in collaboration with the DRDO’s Hyderabad-based Defence Electronics Research Laboratory, the Electronic Corporation of India, and Tata Power Company Limited managed to resolve these issues.

Conclusion

With each successive Government recognising the need for augmenting the growing bilateral defence co-operation between India and Israel, the modernisation programmes of the Indian armed forces have gained in substantial terms. The cooperation has leapfrogged many levels with increasing focus on joint Rand D projects in the fields of high-endurance and rotary UAVs, submarine-launched cruise missiles, anti-ballistic missile systems, network-centric operation, micro-satellite surveillance systems, advanced precision-guided munitions, third-generation night-vision devices, etc. With successful culmination of the high-end technology projects, several new vistas of greater bilateral defence co-operation between the two countries could be expected on long term perspective.