Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defense Systems apologised to the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), a day after setting off an unusual war of words following remarks against India’s Man-Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile.

In a late night statement issued through its PR agency, the Israeli firm apologised for “any unintended communication that has triggered emotional misbalance”. It added that it is a collective effort with the DRDO to bring in the best technologies that will strengthen India’s defence systems.

In an earlier statement issued by the same PR agency Thursday, announcing the successful test of the Rafael-manufactured Man Portable Anti Tank Guided Missile (MPATGM) Spike, the company had taken a swipe at the DRDO. Robbed of a plum Army contract after the DRDO started work on its own ATGM programme, the firm commented on the long time the latter would take to reach the user.

“While there seems to have been some progress on the DRDO development programme, it will take a long time for it to reach the user in the field,” it said.

The Army, the firm added, needed to rethink its order for third-generation missiles, saying the system it offered was fourth-generation.

A furious DRDO subsequently took to Twitter to hit back. It tweeted that the DRDO ATGM is a state-of-the-art missile in advanced stages of development.

‘Clear the misrepresentation’ :

In the new statement, the Israeli firm said it would “like to clear the misrepresentation in media today, and condemns such conjectures that are drawn without any truth”.

“These reports are disturbing the amicable relationship of the two organisations that are committed to serve India. We wish to put on record that our collective effort will bring in the best in class technologies that will strengthen India’s defence systems,” Rafael added.

Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, it said, “affirms and applauds” the work done by DRDO in building new-age technologies for India.

Rafael remains fully committed to its partner DRDO and displays Indo-Israel robust and long-term relationship that fosters joint development of products for tomorrow, it added.

A sour point :

While both Rafael and the DRDO have close collaboration on key projects including the long-range surface-to-air missile Barak 8, Indian military also uses the Israele firm’s SpyDer air defence systems and the Spice 2000 bombs, which were also employed in the Balakot strikes.

However, the MPATGM programme is a sour point between Israel, a trusted defence partner for years, and India.

The reason is that Rafael had won a Rs 3,200 crore Army tender for 8,356 Spike missiles, 321 launchers and 15 simulators after competing with a US firm. But in 2017, the order was scrapped after the DRDO said it could deliver an indigenous equivalent.

The Army, which has been seeking the next generation of ‘fire-and-forget’ ATGMs for over a decade, instead only ordered 210 Spike missiles, a fourth-generation system, worth Rs 280 crore from Rafael as a stopgap arrangement, with about a dozen launchers.

The DRDO, which conducted three successful trials of the weapons system at the Kurnool range in Andhra Pradesh this September, is confident that its MPATGM, with a range of 2.5 kilometres, will be available for “user trials” by 2020.

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