With the maiden test-firing of the Babur Land Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) on August 10, Pakistan has introduced a new weapon system with devastating military capabilities against India. The importance of Babur is twofold: First, it provides an attractive alternative to both ballistic missiles and attack aircraft for conventional war-fighting. This will lead to doctrinal changes especially within the two armies. And second, even as India does not yet have a comparable LACM, Pakistan has given priority to acquisition of its Babur LACM in large numbers. For example, one regiment of Babur (18 road mobile autonomous launchers in three batteries of six launchers each) is slated to enter service by 2008, implying one battery each year starting 2006. India, on the other hand, plans to induct one regiment of the land-version of BrahMos cruise missile only by 2017, implying one battery every five years starting the 10th defence plan (2002 to 2007). The government and the Indian Army appear to have missed the urgent need and operational utility of LACM against Pakistan.
What India urgently needs is a cruise missiles policy, whose long term developmental focus should be three-pronged: to improve BrahMos to hypersonic speeds, to work on a long range subsonic cruise missile with turbofan propulsion, and Cruise Missile Defence (CMD).
There will also be the need to decide various platforms for cruise missiles, as being the prime target of the enemy these will be vulnerable. For example, the LACM can be fired from mobile launchers, hardened silos and submarines; the ideal of course will be to have a mix of all three. Regarding BrahMos, which is to be available in all three, sea, land and air versions, the need is to exploit it optimally. For example, there is good potential to use BrahMos in submarines, as has already been successfully demonstrated in the Russian Amur 1650 class. Consider a realistic naval firepower potential a decade from now: All Kilo-class submarines will be fitted with the Russian Klub 3E-14E LACM. With each submarine carrying 16 to 18 of these 300km range missiles, the navy will have a devastating firepower to employ in various tactical scenarios. This is not all. If instead of the Scorpene submarines, the navy gets the Russian Amur fitted with both Klub 3E-14E LACM and improved BrahMos missiles, even reduced submarine numbers will be made good by better capabilities.