India’s Defence Ministry is reconsidering a 2002 proposal from Warsaw-based Cenrex to upgrade the Air Force’s Russian-made S-125 Pechora air defense systems in facilities the Polish firm modernized solely for that contract.
A ministry official said Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee assured Polish authorities during his Nov. 2-5 visit to Warsaw that Cenrex’s offer would get further review.
The ministry official said an Indian Air Force team already has evaluated the Cenrex facilities and deemed them up to the task of upgrading the service’s 60 Pechora surface-to-air missile systems. The work would extend the life of the Soviet-era systems until 2015.
The upgrade work, estimated to cost about $250 million, involves mounting the system on a wheeled or tracked chassis, replacing the bulky electronic gear with compact, high-speed digital hardware, installing a new radar and enhancing electronic-jamming resistance. The range of the missile also would double to 40 kilometers.
An Air Force official, however, said he is skeptical about improving a 25-year-old system versus buying a new air defense system from overseas markets. The service plans to do both: upgrading the Pechoras while looking for new-generation air defense systems, the service official said.
The Defence Ministry in July 2001 invited firms from the United Kingdom, Israel, France, Russia and Poland to submit offers to modernize the Pechora. The following November, Cenrex and Moscow-based Rosoboronexport each were invited to upgrade two air defense systems.
The subsequent proposals from the Russian export agency and Polish company were rejected for failing to meet technical specifications and questions of production reliability, respectively, the ministry officials said.
Cenrex already has upgraded a couple of Poland’s Pechora systems and, after extensive trials, approached the Indian Air Force and Defence Ministry about reconsidering the company’s offer.
A diplomat at the Russian Embassy here said the manufacturer of the Pechora air defense system, Moscow-based Kunstevo Design Bureau, will not guarantee the combat worthiness of the system or perform maintenance work if they are upgraded by Cenrex. The diplomat also said if a military conflict arises and India runs out of missiles for Polish-upgraded Pechoras, the Russian producer will not guarantee new supplies.
The Indian Defence Ministry official said these factors have been taken into consideration in giving Cenrex a second chance. The ministry official also noted that two to three upgraded Pechora systems will be rented from Cenrex for testing, to see if the system meets service specifications.
The Pechora missile is a two-stage, solid-fuel system that is transported in pairs from battalion storage areas on modified trucks and loaded onto the launchers with the aid of a conveyor, the Air Force official said. It only takes a minute to load the missiles onto the rails, but the time between missile launches is about 50 minutes due to missile preparation, truck transit and other procedures.
The target-ranging frequency of the upgraded Pechora should be such that it can confuse enemy aircraft electronic-warfare systems. The Air Force official added that the upgraded command unit should be able to be positioned miles away and connected through a secure digitized link to reduce firing time.