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DRDO to carry forward talks with French firm for navy missiles

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A replica of MBDA-made SRSAM system. An internet photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to France this week, the Government has directed DRDO to carry forward the talks with French defence major MBDA to develop a new class of 'Short-Range Surface-to-Air Missiles' (SR-SAM) for Indian Navy.

Talks for a project for joint development and production of surface-to-air missile systems between the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and MBDA was initiated in 2007.

The MoU to co-develop the SR-SAM as part of a 'Maitri' project was signed during French President Francois Hollande's visit to India in February, 2013.

However, the situation changed thereafter as both the Indian Air Force and the Army preferred the indigenously-developed Akash surface-to-air missile system.

However, the Navy did not find the Akash system suitable for its warships and asked the Defence Acquisition Council to empower DRDO to re-engage with MBDA.

"The DAC on Saturday asked DRDO to engage with MBDA for the Navy's requirement of SR-SAMs," defence sources said.

The Navy's initial requirement is for nine such systems with 40 missiles each.

Although officials have described it as a new project, analysts say it is a revival of the long-delayed Maitri project, which the French have been pushing.

When it was initially envisaged, the Maitri project was to have a size of about Rs 30,000 crore. MBDA officials have described the project as being apt in view of the Modi government's 'Make in India' initiative.

As per the deal, the Maitri missiles were to be produced only in India and the first deliveries were to happen three years after the signing of the agreement.

India can also export the missile with "MBDA support", French officials have said.

The French defence major has also said that Source Codes for Maitri will be delivered to DRDO, thus giving an autonomy to India for guided missiles and seekers.

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