Air Defense: The French Connection


June 26,2008:  Indian and French companies are offering the Indian DRDO (Defense Research & Development Organization) an easy to avoid another procurement disaster. The proposal is that the Indian and French firms cooperate to develop a new short range anti-aircraft missile for the army (which is using an obsolete Russian system).

DRDO often takes decades to develop such stuff, and the result is usually mediocre or unacceptable. But the most attractive aspect of this pitch is the recent success of the joint Russian-Indian development of the new PJ-10 BrahMos missile. This 3.2 ton missile has a range of 300 kilometers and a 660 pound warhead. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of the BrahMos is its high speed, literally faster (at up to 3,000 feet per second) than a rifle bullet. The missile is used by the army, navy and air force.

India and Russia developed the weapon together, creating an upgraded version of the Russian SS-NX-26 (Yakhont) missile, which was in development when the Cold War ended in 1991. Lacking money to finish development and begin production, the Russian manufacturer made a deal with India to finish the job. India put up most of the $240 million needed to finally complete two decades of development. The PJ-10 is also being built in Russia. India plans to buy 1,000 of them, and efforts are being made to export up to 2,000.  Russia and India are encouraged enough to invest in BrahMos 2, which will use a scramjet, instead of a ramjet, in the second stage. This would double speed, and make the missile much more difficult to defend against.

Inside India, the "BrahMos Approach" is seen as an effective way to improve the capabilities of Indian weapons development managers. The sad history of DRDO development debacles were not just the result of inept government bureaucrats, but poor management by civilian executives as well. The French firm, MDBA, is no stranger, as it has been providing India with military technology for two decades, and has a long track record of successful missile development. India believes it can obtain much management experience (in how to do it right) in return for funding another international weapons development program.


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