New Delhi has approved acquisition of $4.7 billion-worth of weaponry, including missiles and MiG29 engines co-developed with Russia BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles are displayed during an exhibition of the Army 2023 International Military Technical Forum at the Patriot Congress and Exhibition Centre in Moscow region, Russia. © Sputnik

The Indian Ministry of Defence has approved five arms-acquisition contracts worth $4.7 billion (391 billion rupees), including an order for the Navy’s preferred missile, the long-range BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, New Delhi announced on Friday.

Of the five greenlighted contracts, two are with the India-Russia joint venture BrahMos Aerospace, for the acquisition of missiles and a ship-borne system.

While the government will spend $2.3 billion on the missiles to meet the “combat outfit and training requirements” of the Indian Navy, the ship-borne system will cost around $120 million. Fitted on various frontline warships, it is the Indian Navy’s primary weapon for maritime strike operations. “The system is capable of hitting land or sea targets from extended ranges with pinpoint accuracy at supersonic speeds,” the statement noted.

The development comes days after the chief of the Indian Navy asserted that the BrahMos will become the “mainstay” of the Indian Navy as a surface-to-surface system, replacing older missiles from other countries. “[The BrahMos] has evolved in range, in capabilities, in its lethality, and so on”, Admiral Radhakrishnan Hari Kumar said on Monday. India has been heavily reliant on these long-range missiles in its patrols in the Arabian Sea amid recent attacks on merchant vessels by Yemen’s Houthis.

BrahMos is a ‘great advantage’ for India – navy chief BrahMos is a ‘great advantage’ for India – navy chief

Another contract was signed with state-run defense giant Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, for the procurement of MiG-29 aircraft engines. The RD-33 aero-engines will be manufactured under a Transfer of Technology (TOT) license from a Russian original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for $633 million. Russia continues to be India’s largest arms supplier, even though its share of Indian defense imports fell from 62% in 2017 to 45% in 2022.

Two additional contracts – for close-in weapon systems (CIWS) and high-power radar systems for the Air Force – were signed with Larsen & Toubro Limited, a privately-owned multinational conglomerate headquartered in Mumbai.

The new acquisitions will boost “indigenous capabilities” and reduce dependency on foreign-origin manufacturers while saving on “foreign exchange,” the statement noted. The federal government allocated $74.8 billion to the defense sector – the highest among all of India’s ministries – in the interim budget announced in February.

The announcement comes days after the Indian government increased its annual target for defense and aerospace production to $36 billion, while raising the weapons-export target to $6 billion. New Delhi has also made lists of thousands of defense systems that are to be “indigenized” while also inviting start-ups into the sector.

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