LONDON: India and Israel have agreed to fulfill a number of bilateral equipment deals and conduct a joint air manoeuvres later this year as a mark of their burgeoning defence ties, a leading defence weekly has claimed.
The third joint working group at its meeting in Tel Aviv in December 2004 discussed New Delhi purchasing Israel Aircraft Industries Heron II medium-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles and jointly extending the range of the Barak point defence system for the Indian Navy, the Jane's Defence Weekly, said in its latest issue.
The two sides also agreed to hold joint exercises in which Israeli F-16 multi-role fighters will be pitted against India's Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30Mk1 multi-role fighters. The venue and schedule of the manoeuvres is yet to be disclosed.
The eight-member Indian delegation led by Defence Secretary Ajai Vikram Singh met Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz and Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Defence Amos Yaron. He concerns that New Delhi's security relations with Tel Aviv would decline under the UPA government that assumed office in May last year, the report said.
The Indian delegation also discussed the possible procurement by the Indian Army of El-Op's Portable Lightweight Laser Designator currently undergoing trials at Pokhran in Rajasthan.
The Israeli system is being tested alongside a rival product by CILAS, part of European defence concern EADS. Six El-Op PLLD systems have been in service with the Indian Air Force for almost three years, the defence weekly reported.
Indian army wants 90 PLLD systems worth about 266 million dollars (Rs 1.20 billion) before considering the purchase of Israel Aircraft Industries' (IAI) Laser Homing Anti-Tank guided missile, it quoted official sources as saying.
India had ordered 1,000 rounds of Russian 155 mm Krasnopol-M laser-guided artillery projectiles and associated tripod-mounted designators for Rs.1.5 billion in 1999 for use with Bofors 155mm FH-77B howitzers. It wants to augment its reserves by acquiring a similar number.
According to the report the future of a delayed contract to supply the Indian Army with Heron II UAVs was also raised during the talks.
Price negotiations for 12 Heron II UAVs was concluded more than a year ago for about Rs.12 billion, but the deal awaits final clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security.
IAI also plans on retrofitting the Indian Air Force Cheetah light helicopters with a new electronic warfare suite, day-and-night observation capability and a flexible armament carrying system, all of which are fitted to the Dhruv, India's indigenously designed and built advanced light helicopter.
The single Hindustan Aeronautics Limited-built Dhruv that IAI has acquired for an unspecified amount to transport VIPs and Israel Defence Force personnel is scheduled to arrive in Tel Aviv later this month, the report said.
The report also said IAI was committed to reciprocal procurement of indigenously developed military equipment from New Delhi following India's purchase of the Phalcon airborne early-warning system last year.
Israel has also offered to upgrade the Indian Navy's Tu-142 maritime patrol aircraft in a tripartite agreement with Russia but the latter has, for now, stalled the process, the report said quoting military sources.