The IGLA-S deal isn't your usual defence purchase. It's a manufacturing deal. The Russian IGLA-S missiles will be made in India under licence

On Tuesday, Russian media reported an arms deal between New Delhi and Moscow. It is for the IGLA-S anti-aircraft missiles. It’s a Russian staple missile. It will now be made in India. That is the deal.

It is a portable, shoulder-launched system. One person can use it to target enemy aircraft. And the missile will do the rest. It has the ability to differentiate a friend from a foe. It will chase down an enemy aircraft and explode when it’s close enough to take the jet down. Simple and effective.

And India is quite familiar with the system; India has been using the IGLA series for years. Russia first developed it in the 1980s. The IGLA-1 was the first missile iteration. And India has been buying the missiles for decades. Now, IGLA-S is the newest version.

The Russian armed forces inducted it in 2002. So it is not exactly the latest, cutting-edge technology. But it’s typical Russian equipment—older, bigger, and bulkier than western counterparts—in this case, the American stinger missile. The stinger is the American counter to IGLA. The IGLA isn’t as light or sleek as a stinger, but the bulky system gets the job done. That’s why it is extremely popular. The IGLA series is used by over 30 countries. The list includes Armenia, Hungary, Romania, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam.

So why has India decided to manufacture this 20-year-old, albeit popular, anti-aircraft missile? Let’s look at economics. This IGLA-S deal isn’t your usual defence purchase. It’s a manufacturing deal. The Russian IGLA-S missiles will be made in India under licence.

It is a boost to India’s domestic arms industry. Remember, India is the biggest arms importer in the world. New Delhi buys weapons from everyone. Russia, France, and the US. India has defence deals with every major arms supplier. But the ties with Russia are time-tested. Moscow is still India’s biggest arms provider.

Accounting for 45 per cent of India’s defence imports, so this deal will be a boon. It will boost India’s domestic arms industry and perhaps save on some import costs. This isn’t the first time India and Russia have inked a deal like this. They had signed a similar deal in 2021. Back then, it was to make a gun, the AK-203. The deal was a joint venture. Between public sector companies, the Indian Ordnance Factory Board, Russia’s Kalashnikov Concern, and also Russia’s sole defence export firm, Rosoboronexport.

These three tied up to make the AK-203 in India. The partners in the IGLA-S deal still haven’t been announced. It’s likely to involve the Russian export firm again, and KBM, the Russian firm that developed the IGLA.

What about the Indian side? All we know is that a private company will be involved, and when will the IGLA-S start rolling out? No date has been given. So let’s look at the AK-203 deal for answers again. That deal was inked in 2021. And production started in January this year. So there is roughly a two-year timeline.

Of course, the AK is a gun, and the IGLA-S is a missile. So the timelines will differ. But the point is, don’t expect ‘made in India’ IGLA-S to roll out immediately. It takes time to set up factories, after all. But again, that’s a good thing.

India will make the IGLA-S domestically. There won’t be a dependency on imports. And India won’t be vulnerable to supply shocks like war. The war in Ukraine has hit Russia’s arms exports. It is redirecting weapons to the front lines. And that’s not all. Russia is even buying some weapons back from its partners. So a plant in India bypasses that risk, leaving India better equipped.