Israel has overtaken Russia as the main defense supplier to India after breaking the $1 billion mark in new contracts signed annually over the past two years. According to news reports, Russia had averaged sales of $875 million annually to India for the past 40 years. In August, India's defense ministry approved a $2.5b. joint IAI-Rafael deal to develop a new and advanced version of the Spyder surface-to-air missile system. In March, India is scheduled to receive the first of three new Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) developed for the Indian Air Force by Israel Aerospace Industries. The sides are in talks for the possible purchase of another three AWACS. The Phalcon (phased array L-band conformal radar) was designed and manufactured by Elta. It includes radar, electronic intelligence systems, and communication equipment. It has already sold a similar system to the Chilean air force. IAI last week displayed at the Aero India defense expo its new third-generation AWACS based inside a small G550 Gulfstream business jet. "We have a very special defense relationship with India. It's now moving toward joint development of equipment. There are several new projects in the pipeline," Maj.-Gen. (res.) Udi Shani, head of the Defense Ministry's SIBAT Defense Export and Cooperation Agency said in an interview with the Indian press last week. Israeli defense officials said that in the past decade, the countries have signed deals reaching a whopping $9b. "There is close cooperation and the Indians respect Israeli systems and our experience in fighting terror," one official said. Another system India recently purchased from Israel is the aerostat radar to help defend the country against attacks like the ones in Mumbai in November in which the attackers infiltrated the city by sea. The radars will be deployed in strategic points to provide advance warning against incoming enemy aircraft and missiles. The deal is valued at $600m. The EL/M-2083 Aerostat radars are a simpler version of the Green Pine radar, made by Israel Aerospace Industries, and used by the Arrow missile defense system. The phased-array radars are mounted on blimp-like balloons tethered to the ground and capable of detecting intrusions earlier than ground-based radar systems. Following the Mumbai attacks, Israel and India also agreed upon the joint development of medium-range surface-to-air missiles (MRSAM) for the air force.

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