Even as Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, currently on a three-day visit to the US, assured American and Indian industry that the New Delhi is opening doors for business, two US defence giants — Raytheon and Lockheed Martin — announced they would partner Tata Power in manufacturing the Javelin anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) in India.
The Javelin Joint Venture (JJV) — consisting of Raytheon and Lockheed Martin — is partnering the “Strategic Engineering Division” of Tata Power (Tata Power SED) to “create a strategy to co-develop and produce the Javelin missile system and integrate platform mounts to meet Indian requirements.
This includes ground combat vehicle, dismounted infantry and rotorcraft applications.”
Sources close to the long negotiations that preceded this announcement tell Business Standard that the US side has committed to Tata Power SED and to the defence ministry that 70 per cent by value of the Javelin would be built in India.
The FGM-148 Javelin is reputedly the world’s most advanced man-portable ATGM. It is carried and fired from vehicles, or by infantry soldiers, at tanks, fortifications or helicopters as far as 4,000 metres away.
Unlike missiles currently in service, the Javelin is a “fire and forget” missile that does not need to be guided during its flight time.
Instead, the operator aims at the target, locks on the missile, launches it, and scurries back into cover while the missile’s infra-red seeker homes onto the target.
Javelin is competing in India with the Spike ATGM — built by Israeli company, Rafael Advanced Defence Systems.
On October 25, 2014, the defence ministry had cleared the Rs 3,200 crore procurement of 300 Spike missile launchers and 8,500 missiles for India’s 350-plus infantry battalions, with more to be built at Bharat Dynamics Ltd, Hyderabad. However, India’s requirement is far larger — it must equip not just its infantry, but also mechanised infantry battalion equipped with the BMP-2 infantry combat vehicle and, later, the Future Infantry Combat Vehicle.
US industry sources say they are not just relying on vehicle-mounted orders. With the Israelis mired in negotiations with the defence ministry, there is no certainty yet that Rafael would get the infantry ATGM order.
The JJV and the US Department of Defense (the Pentagon) have been pushing hard in Indo-US defence consultations, particularly the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) for India to consider the Javelin. Now, with Washington amenable to providing high technology for manufacturing the Javelin in India, there could be a favourable re-think.
The establishing of production by the JJV-Tata SED combine would be contingent on winning a substantial order from the Indian military. The consortium gave a presentation to the defence ministry earlier this month, which was also attended by top army generals.
The JJV-Tata SED consortium committed to transferring key technologies for manufacture in India. This included manufacturing smokeless propellant, and assembling the missile seeker --- the Holy Grail of missile technology.
Says Tata Power SED chief, Rahul Chaudhary: “This would significantly raise India’s industrial capability and capacity, since no Indian manufacturer has so far built missile launchers and missiles in large numbers. And some of the technologies that Washington has agreed to provide will establish an important precedent for future technology transfer to India.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the US-India Business Council (USIBC) on Tuesday handed Parrikar a report with recommendations on “Ease of Doing Business in India”. Said USIBC president, Mukesh Aghi: “Our members are keen to pursue joint American and Indian private sector partnerships to support Prime Minister Modi’s forward- leaning defense procurement reforms. Our recommendations aim to expand investment flow into India’s defense sector”.