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Navy defends Barak deal

By Atul Aneja

NEW DELHI, APRIL 4. The Navy today defended the Barak missile deal with Israel, citing the unavailability of the indigenous Trishul system and acquisition of state-of-the-art weaponry by Pakistan, as reasons.

Addressing a press conference today, the Chief of Personnel, Vice-Admiral Arun Prakash, said the missile, which can down incoming anti-ship missiles and hostile aircraft, would be fixed on seven key warships in the next seven years. The Barak system, around Rs. 100 crores each, had already been fitted on the aircraft-carrier, INS Viraat.

The Navy began looking for an imported anti-missile defence system as Trishul - its preferred option - was not available. Pakistan had acquired the Harpoon subsonic missiles in 1992 and it could be delivered from its U.S.-built P3C Orion planes. Islamabad was also negotiating the acquisition of the Agosta calls submarines from France.The Indian Navy wanted to acquire a vertically-launched system to down an incoming missile faster. After short-listing other systems on paper, it decided to evaluate the Israeli system alone. The Barak was successfully tested in the Mediterranean in 1995 in the presence of representatives of the Navy and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The Government approved its induction in 1997 for INS Viraat alone. The then Defence Minister, however, had approved the procurement of all the seven systems in 1996. In view of the Kargil war, the headquarters found ``compelling '' reasons to induct the remaining six systems. The Government approved the deal in March 2000.

Vice-Admiral Prakash cited three reasons why other anti-missile systems with a proven capability to down supersonic missiles had not been evaluated. Procedural difficulties would have inordinately delayed the induction of an anti-missile system if other systems had been brought into the fray. The imposition of post-Pokhran sanctions would also have stood in the way of acquiring a Western system. And, very few countries manufactured vertically-launched anti-missile systems.

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