India reboots VSHORAD air defence missile procurement as indigenous program, HELINA anti-tank missile for ALH choppers gets DAC go-ahead

Approvals for the VSHORAD and HELINA mark the increasing indigenisation of the ‘Fight’ element in Indian military procurements.

India on January 10 kickstarted the acquisition process for three significant military procurement programs worth Rs 4,276 Crore.

These include the man portable Very Short Range Air Defence (VSHORAD) missile system to be operated by frontline troops of the Indian Army in dense air defence environments, the helicopter-fired HELINA Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM), also for the Army, and BrahMos missile launchers for the Shivalik class stealth frigates and Next Generation Missile Vessels for the Indian Navy.

Acceptance of Necessity was accorded to these programs at a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Committee (DAC) chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. The DAC is the highest body for initiating Defence procurements.

“All the three proposals - two of the Indian Army and one of the Indian Navy - are under the Buy (Indian-IDDM) category,” the Ministry of Defence announced in a statement. This is a continuation of the policy emphasis on self-reliance in military hardware and for buying this equipment from Indian companies. As much of 68 per cent of the Budgetary allocation for capital procurements for the armed forces for ongoing fiscal is earmarked for Make in India procurement categories of the Defence Acquisition Procedure.

The VSHORAD program was originally meant to be routed through a foreign supplier. After a long-winded global competition, the Russian bidder was declared the winner. But that program was aborted and rebooted as a Make in India procurement with technology developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) being passed on to an Indian production agency. This is an indication of the Government’s firm resolve to stick to the Aatmanirbhar agenda in Defence procurements.

“In view of the recent developments along the Northern borders there is a need to focus on effective Air Defence (AD) weapon systems which are man portable and can be deployed quickly in rugged terrain and maritime domain. Procurement of VSHORAD, as a robust and quickly deployable system, will strengthen the Air Defence capabilities,” the Ministry of Defence stated.

The weaponization program for the indigenous Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) received a boost with the approval for the HELINA Anti-Tank Guided Missile procurement.

“The DAC accorded AoN for procurement of HELINA Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, launchers and associated support equipment which will be integrated to the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH). This missile is an essential part of weaponisation of ALH for countering enemy threat. Its induction will strengthen the offensive capability of Indian Army,” the Ministry of Defence stated.

“Further, the DAC granted approval for procurement of BrahMos Launcher and Fire Control System (FCS) for the Shivalik class of ships & Next Generation Missile Vessels (NGMVs) for Indian Navy. With their induction, these ships would have enhanced capability of carrying out maritime strike operations, interdicting and destroying enemy’s warships and merchant vessels,” the statement added.

While the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile system will be retrofitted on the three Shivalik class frigates – the first lot of Indian made stealth warships – it will be incorporated into the build programme for seven under construction Nilgiri class warships which are also known by the official nomenclature of NGMV, the follow-on of the Shivalik class under Project-17A. The BrahMos missile will give precision land attack capability to these warships.