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© AP Photo / Ajit SolankiA surface to air missile is launched during exercise 'Iron Fist' at Pokhran, India
A surface to air missile is launched during exercise 'Iron Fist' at Pokhran, India - Sputnik International
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In a sign that Israel and India are strengthening ties, the two nations have agreed to a huge weapons deal to jointly expand India’s aerial defense systems.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has agreed to a deal for a medium-range surface-to-air (MRSAM) missile system to be produced by Israeli Aerospace Industries and India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), the Mail Today reports. 

The deal marks 25 years of cooperative diplomatic ties, The Algemeiner pointed out. 

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"The formal clearance for the MRSAM project has been given by the Cabinet committee on security headed by the prime minister last week," according to an Indian ministry of defense official. The formal contract will be awarded later in March, the official said. 

Initial reports indicate that the missile system will protect Indian air space from hostile aircraft and drones flying within a range of 30 to 45 miles. "The Indian Army wants to use the MRSAM to provide air defense to the mechanized formations operating in the plains, semi-desert and desert sections of the country," an Indian Army official told DefenseNews. 

Amid the positive development between the two nations, however, lurks the pressing issue of who will have full intellectual property rights, Defense News noted. The IP rights to the missile technology belong to Israel Aerospace Industries, according to retired Indian Army Maj. Gen. Bhupinder Yadav, "with the exception of those subsystems developed by DRDO." The missile platform "will be manufactured in India," and will feature "80 percent indigenous content," Yadav said. 

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A 2008 attempt by the Indian Army to acquire MRSAM missiles proved futile when "none of the bidders met the technology transfer requirements," DefenseNews reported.   

The Indian Army will add 40 MRSAM missiles to its stockpile. The weapons are slated to be operational by 2023, the Algemeiner reported. Israeli Aerospace Industries and India’s Defense Research and Development Organization previously completed three flight tests of the weapons system. "The missile successfully intercepted a moving aerial target in all three tests," an Indian Ministry of Defense official said. 

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