Israel and India test MRSAM air defense system

JERUSALEM — Israel Aerospace Industries and the Indian government’s Defence Research and Development Organisation conducted a successful test of the MRSAM, a medium-range surface-to-air missile system.

MRSAM was jointly developed by IAI and DRDO over the last several years, and they tested the system in India during the last week of December, the Israeli company said.

The system was developed in the wake of one of the largest defense deals in Israel’s history. In April 2017, IAI and India signed a $1.6 billion contract for the MRSAM system for India’s ground forces. The development involved several Indian companies such as Bharat Electronics Limited, Larsen & Toubro, and Bharat Dynamics Limited as well as Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

The effort is one of the joint ventures that underpins India’s economic policy “Make in India” for defense development, which has seen several decades of contracts with Israeli companies to modernize India’s military.

“MRSAM Air and Missile Defense System is a cutting edge innovative system, that once again has proven its advanced capabilities against a variety of threats,” said IAI President and CEO Boaz Levy, who was appointed to the top job in November and has been closely involved in the development of the Barak 8 air defense system. (MRSAM is part of the Barak family.)

“Every trial in an air defense system is a complex operational event and the COVID-19 limitations significantly increase the complexity. This trial is yet another testimonial to the strong partnership between IAI and India and the two nations,” Levy added.

IAI’s Barak family of air defense systems encapsulates several different levels of ranges, from 35 kilometers to 150 kilometers, and incudes the Barak MX, which the company is marketing globally as a single, integrated solution against multiple simultaneous aerial threats. The MRSAM fills a medium-range gap (70 kilometers) in India.

The current test “validated all components of the weapon system,” according to IAI.

“Israeli specialists and Indian scientists and officers participated in and witnessed the test,” the company added. “The flight test demonstrated different extreme reference scenarios, validating various system capabilities.”

The test involved a mobile launcher and multimode radar. IAI subsidiary Elta Systems makes multimode radar, the same type of radar used by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system. Travel to and from the test site in India, and then back to Israel, was challenging due to the pandemic, requiring participants to quarantine and work in capsules.

MRSAM is used by India’s Air Force and Navy. The naval version, called LRSAM, is based on the Barak 8 and was sold as part of a $777 million contract with India’s state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited in 2018 for seven ships for the Navy. The Barak 8 had its first sea-based operational intercept in 2015 and was proven effective on land in 2016. It can be used against threats at sea such as the Russian Yakhont missile, and IAI says the land-based system can confront a variety of threats, including warplanes, missiles and UAVs.

The Israeli company would not say how many systems the multibillion-dollar deal from 2017 will involve. The size of India’s Army, the country’s landmass and recent clashes have led to accelerated weapons purchases. Israel’s Barak sales to India’s Navy began with one ship, followed by seven and then five more.