Indian Army inducts Russian Igla-S MANPADS air defense systems

The Indian Army, which has for long been looking for new man-portable air defence systems, has inducted a small number of Igla-S systems recently bought from Russia under emergency procurement, Dinakar Peri reports in The Hindu. However, a much larger contract for Igla-S systems under the Very Short Range Air Defence System (VSHORAD) deal is still pending and under review by the Defence Ministry: “The contract was signed in December 2020 and the equipment was delivered by December 2021. This includes 24 launchers, 216 missiles and testing equipment,” one of the sources said.
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9K338 Igla-S (SA-24 Grinch) air defense system. (Picture source: Army Recognition)

As recalled by Dinakar Peri, the procurement was done through the Vice Chiefs emergency financial powers given to the Services for the first time after the Balakot air strike in February 2019 and further extended after the standoff with China in Eastern Ladakh in May 2020.

In the backdrop of the current Russian invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing Western sanctions, India and Russia are working out modalities to utilise the Rupee-Rouble route in a large way for trade and payments. The Ministry is also assessing the impact it would have on the timely execution of deals as well as steady supplies of spares and support.

The larger VSHORAD deal which began in 2010 and saw several rounds of trials and re-trials is still pending, Dinakar Peri recalls. This deal which was close to conclusion is now under review as part of the overall relook at all direct import deals by the Defence Ministry. Deliberations are still continuing on the larger VSHORAD deal.

The Request for Proposal (RFP) for VSHORAD was issued in October 2010 for over 5,000 missiles, 258 single launchers and 258 multi-launchers. Five contenders responded and eventually, three made it to the trials - MBDA of France, Rosoboronexport of Russia and SAAB of Sweden. Eventually, all three companies were declared technically compliant in 2017 and Igla-S was declared the lowest bidder in November 2018. While the benchmark price arrived at by the Army was just over $2 bn, Rosoboronexport’s bid was much lower at around $1.47 bn, SAAB at about $2.6 bn, and MBDA at about $3.68 bn. This led to much deliberation within the Ministry as the Russian bid was much lower compared to the benchmark price. The deal also saw several allegations of deviations in procedures with some of the vendors sending protest letters.

The 9K38 Igla (NATO reporting name: SA-18 Grouse) is a man-portable infrared homing surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. A simplified, earlier version is known as the 9K310 Igla-1 (NATO: SA-16 Gimlet), and the latest variant is the 9K338 Igla-S (SA-24 Grinch). The Igla-1 entered service in 1981, the Igla in 1983, and the Igla-S in 2004. The Igla is being supplemented by the 9K333 Verba since 2014. The Igla-S is a substantially improved variant of Igla 1, with longer range, more sensitive seeker, improved resistance to latest countermeasures, and a heavier warhead. Manufacturer reports hit probability of 0.8–0.9. State tests were completed in December 2001 and the system entered service in 2002. Series produced by the Degtyarev plant started on 1 December 2004.

The Igla-S MANPADS was developed by Kolomna-based Machine-building Design Bureau (KBM, a subsidiary of Rostec's High-Precision Weapons holding). According to the manufacturer, the system has a maximum target engagement range of 6,000 m, an target engagement altitude of 3,500 m, a combat weight of 18.25 kg and a deployment time of 13 seconds.

In addition to the Igla-S, the Army variant of the Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM) jointly developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) completed trials earlier this month and is now ready for induction, Dinakar Peri writes. The maiden launch of MRSAM Army Version was conducted in December 2020.

Air Defence functions in three levels: gun/missile system, medium-range, and high-range. Within this, the air defence (AD) guns are of two types: AD Gun-Missile system an AD self-propelled guns. The Army is looking for AD guns in both categories. In the medium segment, it has the indigenous Akash SAM while MRSAM fits in the high range, Dinakar Peri explains.