Few Hits, More Misses

The DefExpo 2020 was a showcase of some latest and more old technologies

Prasun K. Sengupta

In what can only be described as an elaborate con-game being enacted, three different types of home-grown third-generation manportable anti-armour guided-missiles (ATGM) were showcased at DefExpo 2020: the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO)-developed MPATGM, the Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL)-developed Amogha-3, and the VEM Technologies-developed ASI-BAL.

DRDO’s Man Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile at display at DefExpo 2020

While the Indian Army has a stated requirement for the latest (fifth-generation) ATGMs, the MPATGM and Amogha-3 are over-sized, are two generations behind, and offer a maximum engagement that is half that of the latest foreign-origin ATGMs. Furthermore, while all foreign-origin manportable ATGMs being exhibited at the expo were shown along with their manportable command launch units (CLU), neither the MPATGM nor the Amogha-3 were shown (by either the DRDO or BDL) with their manportable launchers and integral fire-control units, simply because they have not yet been developed.

MBDA along with Larsen & Toubro (via the 51:49 joint venture or JV company named L&T MBDA Missile Systems Ltd, or LTMMSL that was created in 2017 and under it a missile integration facility was created on 3 February 2020 in a Special Economic Zone in Coimbatore across an area of 16,000 sq. metre for undertaking assembly, inert integration and testing) exhibited its fifth-generation Missile Moyenne Portee (MMP). Its manportable CLU comes fitted with a high-definition twin-field infra-red sensor offering advanced image processing, a daytime colour video sensor, GPS receiver, and magnetic compass. The twin-field system gives the gunner images from both the cameras in the firing-post and the missile’s seeker. The MMP missile contains a passive dual-band seeker (uncooled Infra-red and colour video) and also a fibre-optic data-link, making it possible to maintain ‘man-in-the-loop’ control. The missile’s warheads can be switched for either optimal armour penetration or for maximum blast effect against dismount personnel. It has a minimum firing range of 150 metres and a maximum of 4km. The warhead can penetrate 1,000mm of rolled homogeneous armour (RHA) and 2,000mm of concrete.

Rafael of Israel displayed fourth-/fifth-generation variants of the Spike ATGM (through Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems Pvt Ltd, which is spread across an area of 24,000 square feet in Hardware Tech-Park close to the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad), while the Javelin JV (JJV) partnership of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are offering both fifth- and sixth-generation versions of the FGM-148 Javelin ATGM.  To this effect, on February 6, JJV inked an MoU with the Hyderabad-based Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU) BDL to explore co-production of the FGM-148 Javelin ATGM. This then qualifies all the interested foreign ATGM manufacturers to offer their products under the ministry of defence-mandated Indian Designed Developed & Manufactured (IDDM) category, since this category contains a dubious clause that mandates only a minimum 40 per cent locally-built material content, with the remaining 60 per cent being permissible for imports!

Consequently, one can safely conclude that IDDM is nothing else but a new 21st century definition of ‘licenced-manufacture’, thereby having nothing to do with the goal of achieving self-reliance in military-technical/ military-industrial R&D. Only this can meaningfully explain why DPSUs like BDL are teaming up with foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) while at the same time making false claims about having the capability to develop and produce the so-called homegrown ATGMs like the MPATGM and Amogha-3.

Presently, the Indian Army is authorised by the ministry of defence (MoD) to have a total of 81,206 ATGMs, with each infantry battalion deployed in the plains being armed with four medium-range (1.8km-range) and four long-range (4km-range) ATGM launchers (each with six missiles), and those in the mountains have one of each type along with six missiles for each launcher.

In reality, however, the Indian Army’s total existing inventory of ATGMs now stands at only 44,000 that includes 10,000 second-generation MBDA-developed and BDL-built SACLOS wire-guided Milan-2 ATGMs and 4,600 launchers; 4,100 second-generation MBDL-supplied Milan-2T ATGMs; 15,000 second-generation 4km-range 9M113M Konkurs-M SACLOS wire-guided ATGMs licence-built by BDL, plus another 10,000 that are now being supplied off-the-shelf by Russia’s JSC Tulsky Oruzheiny Zavod. Also on order are 443 DRDO-developed and BDL-built third-generation Nag fire-and-forget ATGMs along with 13 DRDO-developed NAMICA tracked ATGM launchers produced by the MoD-owned Ordnance Factory Board (OFB).


Cruise Missiles

Of the two types of long-range multi-sole cruise missile options available to India — the supersonic BrahMos-1 and subsonic Nirbhay — the former has proven to be both versatile and reliable. Director General of DRDO and CEO and Managing Director of BrahMos Aerospace, Sudhir Kumar Mishra, explained his JV company’s continuing successes by detailing the on-going developmental efforts of the BrahMos-A air-launched cruise missile: “The first test was carried out on 22 November 2017 against a sea-based target in the Bay of Bengal. The second test was held on 22 May 2019 against a land-based target in the Car Nicobar Islands region. And most recently on December 17, we carried out the third successful flight test of the missile in user configuration to revalidate its anti-ship strike capability. While the BrahMos-A has been jointly designed and developed by the DRDO and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroiney, the airborne launch pylon (which is the world’s largest) was designed solely by BrahMos Aerospace and produced by BrahMos Aerospace Thiruvananthapuram Ltd (BATL). Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) was tasked to modify two Indian Air Force (IAF) Su-30MKI H-MRCA platforms for carrying the missile. We, along with all our industry partners, also carried out a series of exhaustive analytical and aerodynamic studies and related tests, such as wind tunnel tests and ground trials of the weapon-platform combination prior to undertaking the first demonstration flight, which was conducted in June 2016. We also developed the mission planning system in-house, which allows optimum deployment of the missile in diverse operational scenarios.”

A number of leading Indian private-sector industrial entities have been associated with the BrahMos-A programme, such as Godrej Aerospace (that provided airframes for the missile), L&T (key aero-structural sections),  VEM Technologies (supply of power systems and stores separation systems), Ananth Technologies (supplying the navigation guidance system) and Data Patterns (supplying the command-and-control system consoles and fire-control systems inclusive of the DRDO-developed X-band imaging monopulse synthetic aperture radar). Given the large requirements, state-owned Electronic Corp of India Ltd (ECIL) too has been roped in for producing such terminal-guidance radars. R&D work is now underway on developing an air-to-air version of the BrahMos-A, while the next-generation BrahMos-NG is being developed as a lighter and smaller version capable of being launched from both tactical MRCAs as well as warships and submarines.

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