Homegrown PGMs

Many are being bulk-produced by private companies for use by armed forces

Prasun K. Sengupta

At the 14th Aero India expo held at the Yelahanka air force station in Bengaluru from February 13 to 17, several of the standoff precision-guided munitions (PGM) that had been undergoing development by the ministry of defence-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for close to a decade, were showcased in their ready-for-bulk-production configurations. Quite a few of them are to be bulk-produced by private-sector companies under three sub-categories of the ‘Make’ procedure of the MoD’s Defence Procurement Procedure’s (DPP) India designed, developed and made (IDDM) category. ‘Make-I’ refers to government-funded projects while ‘Make-II’ covers industry-funded programmes. Another sub-category under ‘Make’ is ‘Make-III’ that covers military hardware that may not be designed and developed indigenously, but can be manufactured in the country for import substitution, and Indian firms may manufacture such hardware in collaboration with foreign partners.

Gaurav gliding PGM & Rudram-1 NG-ARM


Anti-Airfield Weapon

The approval accorded by the MoD’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) on 28 September 2020 for commencing the process of bulk acquisition of the Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon (SAAW) worth Rs 970 crore, cleared the decks for private-sector industrial vendor selection to take-off, with the MoD-owned Bharat Dynamics Ltd already being nominated as the prime industrial contractor-cum-systems integrator. The private-sector entity expected to be selected is the Kalyani Group, which has a joint manufacturing industrial partnership with Israel’s RAFAEL Advanced Systems Ltd and is known as the Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems Pvt. Ltd (KRAS).

Israel offered to co-develop a variant of this PGM with India on 7 July 2008 during an official meeting in Pune with the DRDO. This was followed by two additional meetings held in Delhi with senior DRDO and Indian Air Force (IAF) officials in August and September 2007. The joint R&D project (headed by the DRDO’s Hyderabad-based Research Centre Imarat) officially began in mid-2010. The gliding SAAW, to be launched from Nucon Aerospace-Alkan-developed quad-racks carried by Jaguar IS and Su-30MKI combat aircraft, has a length of 1.85 metres, weighs 125 kg and has a range of up to 100 km. The warhead section weighs 72.5 kg and comes with two options: penetration-cum-blast and blast-fragmentation, both with programmable impact-delay fuse. When equipped with an imaging infra-red (IIR) seeker, the miss distance is less than 0.1 metres, while the figure in GPS-guidance mode is less than 7 metres.

The SAAW’s airframe contains a smart tail-unit (STU) containing a fibre-optic gyro-based inertial navigation system (FOG-INS), plus a receiver for NavIC, the operational name of the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite (IRNSS). NavIC provides both Standard Position Service (SPS) and Restricted Service (RS). SPS is for normal civilian use and gives positional accuracies of 10 metres over the Indian landmass and 20 metres over the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). On the other hand, RS is the encrypted-level for military applications. The accuracy of RS level is between 0.5 metres and 5 metres. NavIC uses dual frequency bands, L5 (1.17GHz) and S band (2.5 GHz). The SPS signal is modulated by a 1 MHz BPSK signal. RS uses BOC 5,2 (a square sub-carrier modulation, or split-spectrum modulation).

Nucon Aerospace-Alkan Quad-Rack for SAAW


Anti-Radiation Missiles

The DRDO commenced R&D work on anti-radiation missiles (ARM) back in 2012, when financial approval for Rs 317.2 crore was accorded in December 2012, with project completion being targeted for 2017. The detailed feasibility study phase lasted for a two-year period till 2013, following which prototype development commenced. The Defence R&D Laboratory (DRDL) was the primary agency that carried out the design and development of three types of ARMs along with the Armament R&D Establishment (ARDE), Defence Electronics Research Laboratory (DERL), High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL), Research Centre Imarat (RCI) and the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL).

The first ARM that is now entering series-production by Adani Defence & Aerospace is the Rudram-1 NG-ARM, which has a weight of 600 kg, maximum speed in excess of Mach 2, range of 150 km, length of 5.5 metres and a diameter of 0.5 metres. The missile is equipped with a 60 kg pre-fragmented warhead that uses an optical proximity fuse detonation mechanism. For propulsion the Rudram-1 uses dual-pulsed rocket motor engine, with a solid fuel propellant system. It is capable of flying at an altitude of 500 metres to 15 km. Its mid-course guidance is accomplished with a FOG-INS coupled with NavIC guidance through digital filtering as fall-back to correct accumulated errors, and a passive homing head (PHH) seeker built by Astra Microwave. A W-band millimetric-wave active seeker is employed in the terminal phase of the flight.

The maiden captive flight trials of the NG-ARM was conducted by an IAF Su-30MKI H-MRCA in April 2016 while drop flight trials (DFT) were conducted in December 2016, when the NG-ARM was released by the Su-30MKI while cruising at a speed of Mach 0.8 at an altitude of 6.5 km. The maiden airborne test-firing (minus the sensor package) took place on January 18, 2018, followed by another one with a fully functional sensor package on January 25, 2019, that saw the NG-ARM covering a distance of 100 km over the Bay of Bengal and achieving a 10-metre CEP. The third test-firing took place on October 9, 2020.

Following this will be the Rudram-2A and Rudram-3 NG-ARMs. The former comes equipped with a PHH and an IIR seeker, 155kg warhead section, a 400-second time of flight and a cruise speed of Mach 5.5. It will be launched from a 15 km altitude at Mach 0.8 by a Su-30MKI and Mirage-2000N. Its ground-attack variant will have only an IIR seeker for terminal homing and a penetration-cum-blast (PCB) warhead for use against bunkers and hardened aircraft shelters. The 550 km-range Rudram-3’s R&D was sanctioned in 2017 at a cost of Rs 485 crore. It weighs 1.6 tonnes, has a 200 kg PCB warhead and will be launched only by the Su-30MKI H-MRCA.


 Glide Bombs

On March 17 this year, the MoD cleared the ‘Gaurav’ long-range guided-bomb (LRGB) for bulk-production by the Adani Defence & Aerospace Ltd. This glide-bomb has a length of 4.027 metres, diameter of 620mm, wingspan of 3.4 metres, total mass of 1,000 kg, maximum gliding range of 80 km, warhead section with either PCB or pre-fragmented warheads and a STU for precise navigation. The LRGB will be launched only by Su-30MKIs.

On the other hand, the 550kg ‘Gautham’ glide-bomb will have a maximum range of 30 km. Both these glide-bombs will have a circular error probable of less than 15 metres. The Adani Defence & Aerospace Ltd, along with the MoD-owned Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL), has also been selected for producing the UAV-Launched PGM, which weighs 8.5kg, has an effective range of 1.5 km to 4 km, an IIR seeker for terminal homing and has a 2 kg warhead in anti-personnel and PCB variants.

Following the IAF’s decision to arm several of its Mi-17V-5 medium-lift helicopters with non-line-of-sight (NLOS) missiles, the KRAS joint venture is expected to receive a contract from the MoD to supply about 2,000 Spike-NLOS missiles. RAFAEL has to date developed two variants of the Spike-NLOS, a sixth-generation variant and a fifth-generation multi-purpose, multiplatform man-in-the-loop PGM. The Mk.5 variant Spike NLOS features a gimballed dual-mode charged coupled device (CCD) TV/uncooled IIR terminal guidance sensor package, coupled with an embedded inertial navigation system/inertial measure unit (INS/IMU) mid-course navigation and an encrypted radio frequency (RF) two-way data-link delivering real-time video imagery.


Furnished with a smokeless (low visibility/low acoustic signature) solid-propellant rocket motor, the missile is 1.7 metres in length, weighs 71kg and can be equipped with three warhead options: tandem high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT), penetrating blast fragmentation (PBF) and fragmentation. The Mk.5 NLOS-PGM is capable of engaging stationary or moving targets in day/night/adverse weather conditions in either direct attack mode or mid-course navigation mode, based on received target coordinates, at air-launched (rotary-wing) ranges between 1 km and 50 km, and at surface-launched (ground/maritime) range between 1 km and 32 km. The new Spike NLOS Mk.6 NLOS-PGM retains the inherent functionalities of the Mk.5, but introduces new software-enhanced capabilities. Control over this missile can be transferred between battlefield platforms in mid-flight for optimal success across operational scenarios. RAFAEL’s new image-matching capabilities have been integrated into the Mk.6 NLOS-PGM to enable swift aerial image transfers to the missile. Effective, accurate sensor-shooter closure is a critical operational need, which was previously conducted through transferred target coordinates. Now, target images can be matched with the missile’s video images during flight, designating a target to the appropriate operator.


Cruise Missiles

The BrahMos Aerospace Pvt Ltd joint venture (between the DRDO and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya, or NPOM) plans to conduct the maiden test-firing of the BrahMos-NG supersonic cruise missile by late 2024, followed by its series-production commencing by early 2027. The current air-launched BrahMos-A missile, launched from only the Su-30MKI, weighs 2.65 tonnes, which will come down to 1.33 tonnes with the NG variant. With this, a SU-30MKI will be able to carry up to four BrahMos-NG missiles, while the Tejas Mk.1/Mk.1A LCAs will be able to carry two missiles.

But when it comes to the hypersonic BrahMos-2K missile (the export variant of the 3M22 Zircon from NPOM), there is no clarity as yet on its availability for the India’s armed forces. The BrahMos Aerospace Pvt Ltd had first shown a scale-model of the BrahMos-2 back in 2013 at the Aero India expo in Bengaluru. The first deliveries to India were expected to get underway by 2026, but that date is now likely to be missed following Russia’s own requirements for the missile in the ongoing war with Ukraine. The 3M22 Zircon/BrahMos-2K is a manoeuvring, winged hypersonic cruise missile with a lift-generating centre-body. A solid-fuelled booster stage accelerates it to supersonic speeds after which a scramjet motor with JP-10 liquid-fuel in the second stage accelerates it to hypersonic speeds. In April 2017 this missile had attained a speed of Mach 8 during a flight test. On February 20, 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that the Zircon was capable of accelerating up to Mach 9 and destroying both sea-based and land-based targets within a distance of 1,000 km.

BrahMos NG

At the same time, the DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Establishment continues R&D work on the subsonic, 1,500 km-range Indigenous Technology Cruise Missile (ITCM), powered by the indigenously designed and developed Manik small turbofan engine. Its latest test-flight was conducted off the coast of Odisha on February 21. The launch of the missile, which was also fitted with an upgraded X-band imaging synthetic aperture radar developed by the DRDL and produced by both ECIL and Data Patterns, came after a failed test of the missile on October 28 last year when technical snags developed in its Manik turbofan, which has been developed by the DRDO’s Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) in collaboration with the Centre for Propulsion Technology at IIT Chennai and IIT Mumbai. The Manik turbofan has a thrust rating of 450 kgf. So far, four tests of ITCM technology demonstrator have been conducted since 2020. While two of the tests failed, one trial on 11 August 2021 was partially successful.



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