India welcomes 24 Russian anti-aircraft missiles for defense

In light of economic sanctions initiated against Russia in 2014, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, and a significant decrease in arms exports, Moscow has delivered 24 Igla-S portable anti-aircraft missile systems along with 100 missiles to New Delhi. This delivery, occurring over the past weekend and officially announced on April 9, was officially confirmed by India.

India, Russia deal: India buys Igla-S MPADS and begins production
Photo credit: Russian MoD

The initial delivery includes 24 Igla-S launchers, part of a broader agreement for 100 launchers in total, finalized in late 2023. Out of the 400 ordered and paid-for missiles, the first 100 have now been procured. This leaves Russia responsible for delivering an additional 76 Igla-S portable anti-aircraft missile systems and 300 missiles.

The procurement of these 24 Igla-S launchers holds symbolic significance. The completion of the remaining launchers has essentially been achieved through a licensing agreement that allows India to assemble the Igla-S system. This approach aligns the procurement process with the Indian government’s ‘Made in India’ initiative. The Russian-Indian Igla-S systems are designated for deployment with Indian air defense units located in the country’s northern highlands.

India welcomes 24 Russian anti-aircraft missiles for defense
Photo credit: Reddit

Production starts soon

“The necessary documentation has been agreed upon and currently, we are partnering with an Indian private firm to initiate manufacturing of MANPADS ‘Igla-S’ in India,” Mikheev informed. 

Notably, India is the world’s leading arms importer with Russia maintaining its position as its main source, even amidst the ongoing Ukraine conflict. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute [SIPRI] records reveal that from 2018 through 2022, India secured 45% of its total arms imports from Russia. France came second with 29%, and the United States contributed a modest 11%. 

Mikheev also disclosed to the Russian state news agency, RIA, that “Rosoboronexport is forging collaborations with both private and government-owned Indian enterprises to establish the co-production of aviation armaments and their integration into the existing Indian aviation fleet.” Furthermore, at the start of this year, India and Russia kicked off a collaborative production of AK-203 Kalashnikov assault rifles.

The war in Ukraine sells

Though the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has not directly induced a surge in Russian weapons exports to India, it has unequivocally hastened sales and expedited the decision-making processes. The Igla-S, a precise and high-quality Russian weapon, has demonstrated its efficiency over the two years of warfare in Ukraine. In fact, a multitude of Ukrainian attack aircraft have been downed with pinpoint precision using this portable anti-aircraft missile system. 

India welcomes 24 Russian anti-aircraft missiles for defense - Igla-S
Photo credit: Twitter

Additionally, the structural design of the Igla-C encourages effortless updates—either directly or via the customer. A particularly notable incident occurred near the end of 2023 when Ukrainian Armed Forces combatants successfully shot down an opposing Shahed drone using a sophisticated portable anti-aircraft missile system known as “Igla”. Impressively, this occurrence was even recorded on video. As reported by the Ukrainian press outlet “Focus”, Mykola Oleshchuk, the commander of Ukraine’s Air Force, announced this event. 

This announcement elucidated the successful deployment of the Igla MANPADS, equipped with thermal imaging technology, against the Shahed drone. Such an upgrade significantly bolsters the efficiency of Air Force mobile fire groups during nighttime operations.

We know about Igla-S:

Alternatively known as the SA-24 Grinch, the Igla-S is a state-of-the-art, portable infrared surface-to-air homing system, a product of Russian engineering. It has evolved from the previous Igla series and was developed by the knowledgeable hands at KB Mashinostroyeniya. The system is tripartite, featuring not just the missile, but also a launch tube and a grip. In terms of construction, it is a combination of metals and plastics, interspersed with explosive materials.

Now, let’s delve into the technical specifics. The Igla-S stands at a length of 1.7 meters and has a diameter of 72 millimeters. The standalone missile weighs in at around 11.7 kilograms on average, while the overall system – which includes the launch tube and grip – comes in at approximately 17.9 kilograms. What propels it? A robust solid propellant rocket engine, enabling it to reach a maximum speed of 650 meters per second.

One of the standout features of the Igla-S is its operational range. It’s capable of engaging targets located anywhere between 500 and 6,000 meters away and from altitudes as low as 10 meters to as high as 3,500 meters. This impressive range provides incredible flexibility and adaptability, proving the Igla-S to be a true game-changer on the battlefield.

Working principle

Operating on the principle of infrared homing, the Igla-S tracks its target by monitoring the thermal signatures, primarily from aircraft engines. Once launched, it pursues the target autonomously- there’s no need for the operator to keep the target within sight. The heat-tracking system of the missile locks onto the thermal signature of the target, guiding the missile in its direction. 

The Igla-S is equipped with an intricate “friend or foe” recognition system, effectively preventing it from locking onto friendly aircraft. Furthermore, it’s capable of outsmarting flares and other decoys typically deployed from a target to misdirect the missile. Together, these advanced features position the Igla-S as a formidable force in the realm of modern warfare.

Igla-S differs from Igla-1

Introduced in the 1980s, the Igla-1, more commonly recognized as the SA-16 Gimlet, is equipped with an infrared homing head and carries a 1.17 kg warhead. This system is specifically designed to bring down low-flying aircraft, boasting a maximum effective reach of 5,200 meters and a peak altitude of 3,500 meters. 

Interestingly, it’s not just in size and range where Igla-1 and Igla-S diverge—with Igla-S sporting a wider range—their methods of deployment are also significantly distinct. While the Igla-1 employs a launch tube and can be fired from either a standing or prone position, the Igla-S uses a “soft launch” system. Essentially, this means that the rocket is ejected from the tube before the motor is ignited, significantly reducing recoil and making it a safer option in confined environments. 

India welcomes 24 Russian anti-aircraft missiles for defense
Photo credit: TASS

When it comes to targeting systems, the Igla-S boasts a superior setup. It features a dual-band seeker that operates within both the ultraviolet and infrared spectrums. This dual-spectrum operational capability greatly complicates a target’s attempts to evade detection or deploy countermeasures. On the other hand, Igla-1’s targeting system solely relies on infrared seeker technology.

Mostly among friends

The Russian Igla-S system is deployed in various locations across the globe, Interestingly, it is mostly found in nations that have cordial relationships with Russia. In the Asian subcontinent, India employs the Igla-S system within its Army and Navy ranks. Vietnam also deploys this system through the Vietnam People’s Air Force. 

Watch: 72mm 9K38 Igla MPADS shot down Russian Ka-52 helo - 93rd MB
Video screenshot

Switching our focus to the Middle East, the Islamic Republic of Iran deploys the Igla-S system within its Army. Syria also utilizes this system within its military forces. In the South American context, Brazil employs the Igla-S system, as does Venezuela, with the Venezuelan Army at the controls. 

Continuing north to Europe, Serbia has integrated the Igla-S system within its military forces. Similarly, Ukraine operates the system within its ground forces. Lastly, in Africa, nations such as Libya, Sudan, and Algeria have placed their trust in the Igla-S system.

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