New Delhi: Israeli manufacturer Rafael faced a major setback in 2018 after the Indian Defence Ministry cancelled a $500 million Spike deal in favour of a domestically manufactured anti-tank guided missile. New Delhi previously bailed on a Spike purchase in 2011, and again in 2017 – both times under the DRDO’s pressure.

India’s state-funded defence research agency launched an unprecedented attack on Israeli manufacturer Rafael Advanced Defence Systems on Friday, ahead of a multi-billion deal to supply third generation anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) to the Indian Army.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has claimed that the Israeli firm has been circulating “incorrect facts” regarding India’s ATGM.
The tweet followed Rafael's statement: “With confidence in the Spike missile established, the Indian Army may need to revisit their plans” to develop an Indian anti-tank guided missile.

The statement by the Israeli firm came on the same day when India's Army chief witnessed test firing of the Israeli Spike long-range ATGM at an infantry school in Mhow, a cantonment in Madhya Pradesh state.

Rafael claimed that it will take a long time for the DRDO develop an ATGM to reach the Indian Army in the field.

“To overcome the critical capability void, the Indian Army procured a limited quantity of Spike LR missiles”, the Israeli firm said about a recent purchase of over 200 Spike missiles made under an emergency procurement in July.

“Both the DRDO ATGM program as well as the invitation to the industry to develop a third-generation missile will need a rethink, as having a fourth generation missile will put the plan for development of a third generation missile questionable”, the company argued.

DRDO, which conducted three successful trials of the weapon system at the Kurnool range in Andhra Pradesh in September, is confident that its MP-ATGM, with a range of 2.5 kilometres, will be available for “user trials” by 2020.

Explaining why its ATGM was better, Rafael further added that the fourth-generation Spike LR has fire and forget capability, as well as the ability to fire, observe and update, providing substantial flexibility to the firer to pinpoint the impact point. It also has the ability to switch to a different target mid-flight, should the firer want to do so.

“The missile has an inbuilt seeker, which gives the firer the flexibility to use any of two modes: Day (CCD) and Night (IIR). The dual seeker adds to the missile’s reliability, already established at more than 90 per cent during the field evaluation by the Indian Army in 2011,” the firm stated.

The Indian Defence Ministry cancelled a planned $500 million purchase of Spike anti-tank missiles from Israel's Rafael in favour of the DRDO's man-portable anti-tank guided missiles in January 2018 - just days ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Delhi.

The Indian Army says it requires at least 40,000 anti-tank guided missiles in the next two decades.