Aero India 2023: Russia Looks To ‘Seal The Deal’ For Igla-S MANPADS With India That ‘Wreaked Havoc’ In Ukraine

After making a grand entry at the Aero India 2023 exhibition, which kick-started on February 13, Russian officials have expressed optimism about signing a contract with India for the combat-proven Igla-S air defense systems.

The Deputy Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, Vladimir Drozhzhov, said at the Aero India 2023 international exhibition in Bangalore that Moscow expects to sign a key contract on the supply and licensed production of Igla-S man-portable air defense systems in India.

“We expect the decision of the Indian side on signing the contract on supply and licensed production of Igla-S man-portable air defense systems.”

Being the biggest supplier of military hardware to India, Russia actively participates in the Aero India event, which takes place every two years. This year, Moscow is all set to exhibit more than 200 samples of its military products, including its Su-57 and Su-75 Checkmate fighter jets.

In the Army 2022 International Forum held in Russia last year, the then Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, Dmitry Shugayev, told TASS that the project on the supply and licensed production of portable air defense systems was in the works.

In April 2022, the Indian Army finally inducted several Igla-S systems purchased from Russia under the emergency procurement route. However, the defense officials had informed that the Defense Ministry was considering a larger contract for Igla-S systems as part of the Very short-range air defense (VSHORAD) deal.

“The contract was signed in December 2020, and the equipment was delivered by December 2021. This includes 24 launchers, 216 missiles, and testing equipment,” one of the sources told the media at the time of induction.

India published a request for proposals (RFP) in October 2010 to purchase over 5,000 missiles, 258 single-launchers, and 258 multi-launchers for around Rs 6,400 crore. Trials began two years later, in 2012, with Rosoboronexport from Russia, MBDA from France, and SAAB from Sweden.

At the time, Russian arms sellers emerged as the lowest bidder.

Following the edge secured by the Russian Igla-success, SAAB, and MBDA formally filed objections alleging that the proceedings were unfairly biased in favor of the Russians.

However, despite the complaints, Igla-S has continued to be a leading contender, with media reports speculating in the last two years that Rosoboronexport would eventually bag this agreement.

The Indian Air Force successfully tested Igla air defense missiles in December 2020. (IAF photo)

The VSHORAD (the Igla-S) will replace the existing Igla in service and be all-weather capable. As per requirements, it will have a maximum range of 6 kilometers and a maximum altitude of 3 kilometers. In the complex network of air defenses, VSHORAD is the soldier’s last line of defense against hostile combat helicopters and aircraft.

Further, MANPADS have become extremely popular after being successfully deployed by Ukraine to deny Russia air superiority in the ongoing war. Several Russian fighters, helicopters, and drones have been downed by Ukraine’s MANPADS throughout this one-year conflict.

In fact, besides the NATO-delivered Javelins and NLAWs, the Ukrainian military has also deployed the Igla-S against Russia with a remarkable strike rate. As anticipated by Moscow, this could also play as an incentive for India if it was to sign a deal for the systems.

Igla-S Portable Air Defense

The Igla-S man-portable air defense missile system (MANPADS) is the final line of defense against flying objects in a multi-layered air defense system. It is specifically designed to attack low-flying aircraft.

The Igla-S can recognize air targets like cruise missiles and UAVs head-on and retreat, at any time of day, against background clutter and decoy flares (jammers). It can engage all sorts of visually detectable aircraft and helicopters.

It is an improved variant of the Igla MANPADS with greater combat effectiveness, particularly for cruise missile firing and target identification. A new two-channel optical seeker with a logic unit was installed on the missile.

The Igla-S also includes a heavier warhead, a laser-based proximity fuse, an algorithm-based optimal moment of explosion, and great precision, all contributing to the lethality of the Igla-S. Additionally, the warhead has an increasingly high explosive charge and fragment count.

File Image: Igla-s-missile

The system includes night firing devices, training facilities, and combat equipment like the 9M342 missile and the 9P522 launching mechanism. It also includes maintenance equipment like the 9V866-2 mobile test station and the 9F719-2 test set.

Igla-S missiles provide air defense for military installations and civilian assets around-the-clock against strikes by tactical aircraft, fighters, assault aircraft, and fighter bombers.

In head-on and tail-chase confrontations against a background of clutter and countermeasure situations, it can neutralize combat helicopters, cruise missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). With threats posed by Pakistan and China on its continental borders, the Igla-S could significantly bolster India’s air defense capability.