NEW DELHI: The anti-missile defensive shield protecting 14 frontline Indian warships, including aircraft carrier INS Viraat, is fast eroding but the government is dragging its feet on taking a decision one way or the other due to an ongoing CBI probe into the original deal.
The Navy has been pressing panic buttons for quite some time about its fast depleting stock of missiles to arm the Israeli Barak-I anti-missile defence (AMD) system – which intercept hostile incoming sea-skimming missiles at a 9km range – fitted on INS Viraat as well as guided-missile destroyers and stealth frigates, a report in Indian media said.
Sources said that Navy chief Admiral DK Joshi has even written to defence minister AK Antony for an early decision on the acquisition of an additional 262 Barak-I missiles, at a cost of over $150 million, since it was a “critical operational requirement”.
But the defence ministry had expressed helplessness due to the pending CBI investigation into the infamous Barak kickbacks case registered in October 2006. The law ministry and the attorney general, however, have now left it on the MoD to decide on the fresh procurement case.
But in the backdrop of the VVIP helicopter and other scams ahead of the 2014 general elections, the MoD seems reluctant to take a decision even though it “understands” the urgency for the Barak-I missiles.
It was after Pakistan acquired sea-skimming Exocet and Harpoon missiles, coupled with the failure of the indigenous Trishul AMD system, that the then NDA government had inked the initial Rs 1,160 crore deal for nine Barak-I AMD systems, along with 200 missiles worth Rs 350 crore, with Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Rafael in October 2000.