India To Purchase US Missile Shield For National Capital Region

To safeguard major cities across India, the government is in discussion with Washington to procure the next-generation air defense system to protect the National Capital Region (NCR) from Chinese or Pakistani aerial threats.

The process for procuring the National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System-II (NASAMS-II), a distributed and networked medium to long-range air-defense system, is currently underway, which includes new missile shields to replace outdated systems.

Indian sources say the defense acquisitions council (DAC), chaired by defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has approved the “acceptance of necessity (AoN) for the acquisition of the NASAMS-II worth around $1 billion.”

Sources told The Times of India that the Delhi Area Air Defence Plan, which includes Rashtrapati Bhawan, Parliament, North, and South Blocks, could soon deploy these new multi-tiered air defense networks to adequately secure its airspace from incoming fighter aircraft, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

The NASAMS-II, armed with the three-dimensional Sentinel radars, short and medium-range rockets, multiple ground launchers, fire-distribution centers, and command and control units to rapidly detect, track and shoot down multiple airborne threats, is the same air defense system embedded in Washington, D.C, NATO countries, and Israeli cities.

India’s move to quickly acquire NASAMS-II comes as the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is nearing completion of developing its two-tier ballistic missile defense (BMD) shield, which is designed to intercept nuclear missiles over the country.

“Once the Phase-I of the BMD system is operational, it will be deployed to protect cities like Delhi and Mumbai from long-range missiles with a 2,000-km strike range. The NASAMS, in turn, is geared towards intercepting cruise missiles, aircraft and drones,” said a source.

The Times of India notes that the government has kept a $2 billion procurement of two dozen Sikorsky MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters on pending status till the “two-plus-two” dialogue between New Delhi and Washington on September 06.

Before granting AoN on the MH-60 Black Hawks, India wants to “assess the US response” on different subjects, including its sanctions regime under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) that attempts to block India from purchasing Russian armaments or Iranian energy.

“The AoN for the helicopters, which are used to detect, track and hunt enemy submarines, has been deferred till September. Earlier also, it was not fielded in the DAC after US abruptly cancelled the two-plus-two dialogue (between Sitharaman and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj with their American counterparts, Jim Mattis and Mike Pompeo) slated for July,” said a source. Indian sources later explained to The Times of India that it was due to US’s upcoming engagement with North Korea.

The Times of India said Washington is moving towards granting a waiver to India from CAATSA, which means certain trade restrictions pertaining to Russia and Iran could be lifted.

India is nearing the final stages in acquiring the Russian S-400 Triumf missile system despite strong criticism from Washington, which could be the trade-off Washington needs to solidify the NASAMS-II transfer. Since 2007, Washington has sold $15 billion in military weapons to India.

As part of efforts to strengthen the country’s aerial security, India is in the process of deploying missile shields over critical cities across the country as the probability of conflict between China and Pakistan increases.