New Delhi: Hyderabad-based Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), a missile research laboratory under the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) umbrella, and leading global and European defence major, MBDA Missile Systems, will jointly develop a new-generation low-level, quick-reaction missile (LLQRM) system, Maitri, for the Indian Navy and air force.
According to reports, the project, which may cost up to $500 million, will very likely be signed by May this year. Reports suggest that Maitri will try to take forward the work already accomplished under the unsuccessful Trishul LLQRM project. Conflicting reports about the status of Trishul leave it unclear whether or not it has been accepted or rejected for induction by the Indian armed forces.
Reports, citing DRDL sources, suggest that scientists are preparing a feasibility study to launch the Maitri project and formal clearance from the defence ministry may be received anytime over the next two months. A delegation from the French defense ministry, led by Francis Lureau, chief executive of French arms-procurement agency Délégation Générale pour l'Armement, will hold talks here this week with officials from the defence ministry and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in this regard.
According to reports, defence ministry sources indicate that the government may like to model the Maitri project as a government-to-government R&D partnership, along the lines of the one formed between Russia and India for the BrahMos missile programme. With BrahMos the two governments guaranteed the funding, and also contracted not to transfer the technology to a third country without each other's approval. Reports also suggest that the Indian government may very likely fund the Maitri programme on its own.
The R&D stage for the Maitri programme is expected to be over in about three years.
Defence ministry sources indicate that the joint development plan would see the MBDA developing the active homing-head and thrust vector control systems for the missile, while the software, command-and-control system and system integration work would be carried out by the DRDL.
DRDO sources also indicate that another DRDO agency, the Electronics & Radar Development Establishment (ERDE), Bangalore, would develop two indigenous radars for the Maitri project. These would be new-generation variants of 3-D central acquisition radar, with the ability to track 150 targets simultaneously at a distance of 200 kilometers. According to sources, while the naval variant would be called the Revati and the air force version would be called Rohini.
According to DRDL sources, India may also sign another pact with MBDA to develop a dedicated active seeker-head system for the indigenous Astra beyond-visual-range missile, which too has been a long time under development.