Now what do we hear? There’s tantalizing talk of France offering, as sweetener for the Rafale MMRCA deal still hanging fire, the Air-launched ASMP-A (Air-Sol Moyenne Portee) cruise missile. The twin objective could also be to displace the Brahmos with the argument that ASMP-A at one ton weight can be carried by MiG-21 (but these are being quickly wasted out of IAF) and even the Tejas LCA (which is simply not possible). Besides, as those in the know point out, the Brahmos may be heavier at 3-ton weight but in no other parameter is it outperformed by the ASMP-A. For instance, the French item can go supersonic in only certain flight regimes (such as high altitudes). The ASMP-A, it may be noted, has also been offered to China. Great business this — make oodles of money arming all sides against each other! But the ASMP-A riding on Rafale is a sign of desperation. But also a means for the entire $22 billion deal to go down easier. Well placed sources particularly refer to the fact of the French having paid up, ahem!, the “commissions” to every one up and down the Indian system starting at the political apex, and expect the beneficiaries will now do their bit.
The ASMP-A offer encompasses the larger issue of foreign arms suppliers doing every thing in their power to kill off indigenous projects –in this case the highly regarded Brahmos made in collaboration with Russians, and the even more local DRDO programme for “hypersonic” cruise missile with the platypus nose which’s coming along nicely and, many knowledgeable people say, will add an additional 200 kms to MIRVed nuclear warheads as glide bombs on A-5 and the coming A-6.