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Report: India approves domestic portable air defense system procurement

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The Indian government on Tuesday approved the purchase of a domestically-developed portable air defense system.

The Very Short Range Air Defence System (VSHORAD) is part of a wider defense acquisition approved for 42.76 billion rupees ($523 million), including HELINA anti-tank guided missiles, BrahMos missile launchers, and fire control systems.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation is developing the system for the Indian Army. The organization flight-tested the system in September.

Rising Tensions With China

The dual thrust, solid motor-propelled system is designed to counter “low altitude aerial threats at short ranges,” such as fighter jets and helicopters.

The approval comes amid rising tensions between the Indian and Chinese armed forces along the Line of Actual Control (de facto border between the two countries).

“In view of the recent developments along the northern borders [along China] there is a need to focus on effective air defense weapon systems which are man-portable and can be deployed quickly in rugged terrain and maritime domain,” the ministry said in a statement.

Long-Sought Requirement

India has been looking to procure a VSHORAD for over a decade to replace its Russian Igla-M air defense system inducted in the 1980s.

The country issued a request for proposals for the VSHORAD in 2010 for over 5,000 missiles, 258 single launchers, and 258 multi-launchers.

The system’s required range and altitude were 6 kilometers (3.72 miles) and 3 kilometers (1.86 miles).

Russian System Bought in Limited Numbers

After several rounds of trials and retrials involving three international defense firms, New Delhi bought a limited number of the Russian Igla-S in 2020.

India bought 24 launchers and 216 missiles, far less than its originally proposed requirements.

System to Fill ‘Critical Gap’

The lightweight system can be deployed faster than other long and medium-range air defense systems, particularly in mountainous terrain.

An Indian Army officer told The Indian Express that there was “a critical gap in the Army’s inventory, especially for the eastern and northern borders, though not so much for the western borders with Pakistan, for which India has the Soviet-vintage OSA AK missile systems.”

“Others like the Akash Short Range Surface to Air Missile System are heavier with a theatre air defense umbrella of up to 25 kilometers (15.53 miles) and can be deployed further away from the Line of Actual Control for static formations,” he said, adding that they may not be best for the mountains.

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