Shot in the Arm

The Indian Army’s ATGM procurements are finally progressing after years of delays and deliberations

Mihir Paul | New Delhi

On 8 January 2019, state-owned Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) inked a massive contract worth USD110 million to supply the Indian Army with upgraded Konkurs-M ATGMs (Anti-tank Guided Missiles) and launchers. Touted as a ‘stop-gap’ deal to partially meet the Indian Army’s long-pending projected requirement of approximately 68,000 ATGMs and over 2,000 launchers, the procurement comes as a much needed ‘shot-in the arm’ for the Indian Army.

Milan 2T, INVAR(ATGM) & NAG(ATGM) missile models display during Aero India expo

Konkurs-M ATGM is designed to be fired from vehicles, although it can also be fired from the later models of 9M111 launchers. It is an integral part of the BMP-2, BMD-2 and BRDM-2 vehicles (India’s ICV fleet). The missile is stored and carried in a fibreglass container/launch tube. Earlier in 2015, the Indian Army had received approximately 7,000 upgraded Russian 9M113 Konkurs ATGMs.  BDL has been producing Konkurs ATGMs under Russian license at the Bhanur facility. The missiles have now been upgraded with a tandem warhead.

Later towards the end of the month in January 2019, the Indian Army raised a request for approximately 5,000 Milan-2T ATGMs following which, on January 31, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) green-lit the Rs 12,000 crore purchase of Milan-2T ATGMs.

The man-portable MILAN 2T is capable of firing a 115mm tandem high-explosive anti-tank warhead at armoured targets at a distance of up to 2,000 metres. The 2T version, first introduced into service in the early Nineties, is reportedly able to penetrate reactive armour. While the Milan-2Ts are 2nd-generation ATGMs, they still have a projected life expectancy of another decade.

According to Maj. Gen. S. Singh (retd.), the upgraded Milan-2T with a tandem warhead is still a viable choice to meet urgent requirements, even for asymmetric situations. In fact, during the Kargil conflict, the Indian Army used Milans as an extremely effective bunker-buster for heavily fortified ‘sangars’ (bunkers) in the mountains.

The Indian Army happens to have one of the largest mechanised fleets in the Asia-Pacific region and with this comes a pertinent need to stay a step ahead in regards to equipment and inventory. ATGMs are one of the few weapons that are vital in contributing towards both offensive and defensive scenarios in regards to warfare involving mechanised units.

The importance of ATGMs continues to grow in today’s battlefield. Armoured vehicles are more mobile, lethal, and protected than ever. Even if not being used for the traditional purpose of engaging enemy armour, ATGMs have seen increased usage in asymmetric warfare. ATGMs have been used to engage enemy snipers, to take out 4 x 4 infantry vehicles with mounted weapons, or even to engage suicide bombers in explosive-laden vehicles. Given the ever-growing need for flexibility and versatility, a multitude of launch platforms for ATGMs are now available. ATGMs can be easily launched from man-portable tripods, wheeled trucks, infantry combat vehicles (ICVs), tanks, and helicopters.

The Indian Army presently has a total projected requirement of approximately 68,000 ATGMs in the next few decades and needs missiles which can hit high-speed moving armoured vehicles without the support of an operator. Currently, the army is using second generation ATGMs, Russian licensed Konkurs-M and European-licensed Milan-2T.

The Indian Army’s long-pending delayed-plagued procurement of different ATGM platforms has finally seen progress this year. In a bid to fast-track procurements and meet modernisation agendas for the armed forces, the government, in 2018, signed a record number of acquisition deals and fast-tracked many more. The Indian Army, being a keen recipient of a slew of long-pending equipment, unfortunately, didn’t see any progress on the ATGM front, at least not until the end of 2018.

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