The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kalam letter rips into George
- 1999 missive blew holes in Barak missile defence system

New Delhi, Oct. 11: President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam wrote a letter to the defence minister in 1999 pointing out deficiencies in the Barak missile defence system.

Kalam was at that time scientific adviser to the defence minister ó and the architect of Indiaís own floundering Integrated Guided Missile Defence Programme ó and George Fernandes was the defence minister. The CBIís case against Fernandes, Jaya Jaitly and former navy chief Admiral Sushil Kumar rests largely on Kalamís letter.

Fernandes has claimed that Kalam had supported the induction of the Barak missile defence system.

But Indiaís indigenous missile development programme had even less success to show at that time than it has now. As the scientific adviser to the defence minister and the head of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), it was not Kalamís call to decide whether to import the Barak system or not. If the DRDOís Trishul surface-to-air missile had even modest success to show, the justification for buying and installing the Barak would have been weaker.

The CBI alleges that Admiral Kumar overrode Kalamís objection and recommended the purchase of the Barak.

The navy wanted the Barak to counter the Harpoon and Exocet missiles being acquired by Pakistan.

Like the Barak, the Trishul also has a range of 9 km. Before the Barak was tested in 1999, the Trishul was put through more than 20 trials.

The Trishul was part of the missile development programme under Kalam that began in 1983. It was originally meant to go into user trials in 1991. But even now, in 2006, it is not found to be ready for user trials by the services.

Kalam is understood to have said in his letter that the Barak was untested in 1999 and he could not give a guarantee of its success. He also said inducting the Barak would take longer than the navy would like. By 1999, the navy was trying out only one Barak system ó which was okayed by Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, who was sacked by the government for defying instructions. Admiral Sushil Kumar took over from Bhagwat and recommended that the Barak be inducted.

The Trishul SAM (surface-to-air missile) is still going through trials. DRDOís projects have a history of not meeting production schedules. DRDO officials say research and development programmes are necessarily time-consuming. But the military says that waiting for DRDO projects to complete will leave its inventories wanting.

But more damaging for Fernandes & co. than Kalamís letter is the admission by Vice-Admiral Madanjit Singh, who was asked to test the Barak, that his objections were also overruled. Singh, who was then the western naval command chief, told a television channel: ďInitially, during the test firing there were some failures and as a result of that I had raised objections about the Barak missile which were subsequently dealt with. The missile was suited to the Israeli system, not Indian system. Israeli ships donít stay out at sea for long periods of time whereas Indian Navy ships do.Ē His objection, he said, was seen as dissent.

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