Plans for serial production of India’s Nag anti-tank missile suffered a blow with the French government’s refusal to allow Thales to transfer to India technology for the company’s seeker radar system for the missile.
Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials here said Thales in late November told India’s Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad, it could not transfer the target-seeker technology for the system’s production in India. The Nag missile is in the final stages of development for the Army, and serial production was to begin in March or April. A new timetable was not available, but MoD officials said they are working to resolve this impasse.
MoD officials said the DRDL approached Thales in July for approval of the technology transfer for seeker-head production in India because Thales is closing its Nag-specific seeker-head production facilities in France.
India twice approached the French government to intervene and give Thales clearance to sign a technology-transfer contract with the DRDL, MoD sources said. The value of that potential contract was not disclosed.
The French government is reluctant to give Thales clearance because of New Delhi’s delay in finalizing a contract for six French Scorpene submarines, for which Armaris is the prime contractor, the MoD sources said. Armaris is a joint venture of Thales and French shipyard DCN. The $2 billion Scorpene deal has been in negotiations for four years. Officials at the French Defense Ministry and Armaris were unavailable for comment by press time.
The DRDL since 1988 has bought 60 seeker heads for developmental Nag missiles for an undisclosed amount, and Thales has signed another contract to supply upgraded seeker systems for the DRDL’s new Astra air-to-air beyond-visual-range missile, now being developed. The value of that contract also was not disclosed.
Thales executives here said this is a commercial matter and the company would not comment.
DRDL Director Rama Rao Prahlada said the laboratory has carried out 40 successful trials of the Nag, and the Army plans another 20 mission-specific trials in the next two to three months.
Prahlada said the DRDL is consulting with India’s sole missile-maker, Bharat Dynamics, on a timetable for serial production of the Nag at its plant in Hyderabad.
But Army officials here said that if India does not get the appropriate technologies from Thales, there will be production problems. India does not possess the capability to design and develop sophisticated seeker heads for missiles, the Army officials said, noting that if France does not reverse its decision, the service may have to buy anti-tank missiles elsewhere, effectively killing the Nag program.
The Army requires around 500 Nag missiles and the Air Force 100 missiles each year.