In a recent development, Russian media highlighted a significant arms deal between New Delhi and Moscow, focusing on the IGLA-S anti-aircraft missiles. This staple in the Russian missile arsenal is set to undergo a transformation as it is slated to be manufactured in India as part of the deal.
The IGLA-S is a portable, shoulder-launched system designed for single-person operation, offering the capability to target enemy aircraft with ease. What sets it apart is its ability to discern friend from foe, ensuring precise and effective engagement. Once launched, the missile autonomously tracks and intercepts enemy aircraft, detonating upon proximity to bring down the target. While the IGLA-S may not represent the latest cutting-edge technology, its simplicity and effectiveness have made it a longstanding choice for various nations, including India, which has been utilising the IGLA series for years.
Originally developed by Russia in the 1980s, with the IGLA-1 being the first iteration, the missile has evolved over the decades, with the IGLA-S being the latest version. Although it was inducted into the Russian armed forces in 2002, it may not boast the sleekness of its Western counterpart, the American Stinger missile. Despite its bulkier design, the IGLA series has gained widespread popularity, being employed by over 30 countries, including Armenia, Hungary, Romania, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. This arms deal underscores the enduring appeal and reliability of Russian missile systems in the global market.
India’s decision to manufacture the IGLA-S anti-aircraft missile, despite its two-decade-old design, stems from strategic economic considerations. Unlike traditional defence purchases, this deal signifies a manufacturing agreement where Russian IGLA-S missiles will be produced in India under licence. This move holds particular significance for India, known as the world’s largest arms importer, engaging in defence deals with major suppliers such as Russia, France, and the United States.
Given Moscow’s long standing role as India’s primary arms provider, accounting for 45% of the country’s defence imports, this manufacturing deal holds the potential to significantly boost India’s domestic arms industry. By producing the IGLA-S domestically, India aims to strengthen its defence capabilities and potentially reduce import costs. This approach aligns with India’s broader strategy of diversifying its arms procurement and fostering self-reliance in defence production.
This isn’t the first instance of such collaboration between India and Russia. In 2021, the two nations inked a similar deal for the production of the AK-203 rifle, a joint venture involving India’s Ordnance Factory Board, Russia’s Kalashnikov Concern, and Rosoboronexport, Russia’s sole defence export firm. While the partners for the IGLA-S deal have yet to be officially announced, it is likely to involve Rosoboronexport and KBM, the Russian firm responsible for developing the IGLA system. This strategic partnership underscores the enduring strength of the India-Russia defence relationship and their joint efforts in advancing domestic defence production capabilities.
While specific details about the Indian side of the IGLA-S deal remain undisclosed, it is known that a private company will play a role in its production. Drawing insights from a similar agreement for the AK-203 rifle in 2021, where production commenced in January of the following year, there is a rough two-year timeline for such manufacturing collaborations. However, it’s essential to acknowledge the distinctions between producing a gun and a missile, meaning timelines for the IGLA-S may differ.
Anticipating an immediate rollout of ‘made in India’ IGLA-S missiles would be unrealistic, given the time required to establish production facilities. Nevertheless, this gradual approach to domestic production carries substantial advantages. By localising the manufacturing process, India reduces dependency on imports, thereby mitigating vulnerabilities to supply shocks during times of conflict, as exemplified by the current impact on Russia’s arms exports due to the Ukraine crisis.
The ongoing war has prompted Russia to redirect weapons to the front lines and even repurchase some from its partners, underscoring the potential risks associated with external dependencies. Establishing a production plant in India serves as a strategic measure to enhance self-sufficiency in defence capabilities, ensuring a stable and reliable supply of crucial weapons systems, such as the IGLA-S, in the long run.
India’s decision to embark on the domestic production of the IGLA-S anti-aircraft missile underlines a strategic shift toward self-reliance in defence manufacturing. While specific details about the Indian side of the deal remain undisclosed, drawing parallels with a similar collaboration for the AK-203 rifle suggests a rough two-year timeline for production commencement. This measured approach emphasises the significance of gradually establishing production facilities, recognizing the inherent complexities of manufacturing advanced weaponry.
The move towards ‘made in India’ IGLA-S missiles signifies a proactive effort to reduce dependency on imports and enhance India’s defence capabilities. By localising the production process, India aims to safeguard against potential supply shocks, a timely consideration given the disruptions in Russia’s arms exports caused by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The strategic advantage of bypassing external risks and ensuring a stable supply of critical defence systems positions India on a trajectory toward greater self-sufficiency in its defence industry, ultimately contributing to the nation’s security and resilience.
(Views expressed in the article are of author’s own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Business Upturn Asia)