The Indian Army has moved a step closer to acquiring the STARStreak air defense system as the British company Thales and India’s Bharat Dynamics have signed an agreement on the missile defense system.
Thales has said in a statement that the agreement makes Bharat Dynamics part of the STARStreak missile system’s global supply chain. The state-owned company will be exporting Indian-manufactured components to the system’s existing customers, including the UK Armed Forces.
The agreement between the two companies was signed in the presence of government representatives from both countries. UK Defense Minister Jeremy Quin said: “Co-operation between the UK and India continues to develop at pace with much closer ties within our defense equipment programs and systems”.
The defense minister said that signing marked “the start of the next generation of missile systems for the Indian Army and reinforces our commitment to work with international partners”.
The agreement is also another push towards achieving India’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (Self-reliant India) goal. The statement from Thales noted that the agreement will provide Bharat Dynamics an opportunity to “offer a ‘Make in India’ STARStreak solution to the Indian Government”.
The system, with a capability that will match the immediate air defense needs of the Indian Army and Air force, would see 60% manufacturing in India.
Air Defense Missile System
STARStreak High-Velocity Missile provides close air defense against conventional air threats such as fixed-wing fighters and late unmasking helicopter targets. It accelerates to more than Mach 4 after its launch, making it the fastest short-range surface-to-air missile in the world.
The missile system, in service with the British Army, is unique due to its three laser-guided darts, which cannot be jammed by any known countermeasure. The company says it can defeat any air target as the last line of defense.
The high-velocity missile is capable of being launched from lightweight land, sea, and air platforms, from either automatic fire control systems or the STARStreak Lightweight Multiple Launcher, Next Generation (LML NG).
Increasing Defense Cooperation Between India, UK
In December 2020, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had held talks to enhance the defense and maritime cooperation between the two countries.
With Brexit, the UK has been eyeing the world’s second-biggest arms importer India as a key market. However, there has been no major defense pact between the two countries since 2004, other than the BAE Systems deal for 123 Hawk trainer planes for the Indian Air Force.
As part of the cooperation, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was to visit India as chief guest on Republic Day but the discovery of a new strain of coronavirus in the UK and rising cases resulted in the cancellation of the visit.
However, Johnson has ensured Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the UK’s commitment towards the Indo-Pacific region. Sources have told Nikkie Asia that “agreements on facilitating defense sales and joint ventures, as well as an enhanced trade partnership, will come to fruition, even if delayed.”
The Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, will be deployed to the Indo-Pacific region in the second quarter of this year. Reports suggest the UK and Indian navies could also hold their annual joint exercise in the summer.