Amidst China Border Heat, New Israeli Air Defence Kit For India?

There’s buzz over a ‘new’ Israeli air defence system joining the Indian arsenal amidst a continuing border standoff between India and China in Ladakh.

On June 27, in a report on fresh deployments to the combat zone, news agency Asian News International quoted a source to say, ‘India is also very shortly getting a highly capable air defence system from a friendly country which can be deployed and the entire area can be taken care off (sic) to prevent any enemy flying there.’

Two days later on June 29, the Economic Times reported, ‘Key defence supplier Israel – which showed its commitment as a reliable partner during the Kargil war too – is expected to deliver a much-needed air defence system that will be deployed along the border. Sources said that the unnamed air defence system is likely to come from the current holdings of the Israeli defence forces and would supplement the Ladakh sector.’

The two reports have sparked justifiable buzz over what this system could be. But first, a quick look at the several different Israeli air defence systems the Indian military already operates.

The Indian Air Force operates the SPYDER quick reaction surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. Deployed in various theatres in the northern and western sectors, the systems were contracted in 2008, with deliveries starting in 2012. The photograph you see at the head of this piece, from December 2018, is the first public image of the weapon system in action, at a guided weapon exercise at the Suryalanka air based on India’s east coast.

The Indian Army briefly floated a global contest to choose a short-range SAM (SRSAM) system, but shelved it in favour of the indigenous Akash system in 2017. The Israeli SPYDER had been a contender in the aborted quest, alongside the Saab BAMSE and Russian Tor-M2KM.

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