These Indian missiles are being developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Project, launched by the Government of India in 1983, under the aegis of the Defence Research and Development Organisation. As the missiles will be purely Indian systems, the enemy will be unable to ascertain their exact capabilities and vulnerabilities except on the actual battlefield and will hence be hindered in his attempt to counter them.
With a deafening roar and engulfed by a bright red, orange and yellow fire ball, the sleek Prithvi rose majestically into the sky. It was a spectacular lift-off that carried the missile and its warhead to the target 200km away and placed India among the select few nations possessing state-of-art missile technology. For the scientists, engineers and technicians working on the project, it was a moment of rejoicing, a culmination of years of sincere and dedicated endeavour.
Coming as it did a few months after the successful launch of the Trishul SAM, the achievement was even more noteworthy.
These Indian missiles are being developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Project (IGMP), launched by the Government of India in 1983, under the aegis of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The programme encompasses the simultaneous development of five different missiles for various military applications; Nag, an anti-tank, “fire and forget” missile of the third generation, two types of SAMs (surface to air missiles), the short range Trishul and the medium range Akash; and two types of SoMs (surface to surface missiles), Prithvi with a range upto 200km and Agni with a longer range.
Though the Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad, is the nodal development agency for IGMP, as many as other laboratories of the DRDO are participating in the project along with a host of public sector and private undertakings and seven academic institutions, including Jadavpur and Osmania Universities.
Nag anti-tank missile will incorporate sophisticated homing techniques and is expected to be ready for user trials by 1990. The missile will have a range of 4 to 6 km and will be an all-weather day and night system. It will have a “fire and forget” capability, that is, the missile will automatically seek and home on to enemy tanks once it is fired in their general direction and at the approximate range to the target. While IIR (Imaging Infra Red) technology will be used for target acquisition by the launcher detachment at night, the missile itself will have a millimetre wave guidance system which will work in both the active and passive modes to distinguish hard targets such as tanks and other AFVs (Armoured Fighting Vehicles) from soft-skinned trucks and other mobile targets. The missile is designed to attack tanks from above to exploit their vulnerability against top attack because of thin armour plating on top. Nag is in the same class as anti-tank missiles currently under development in the USA and other NATO countries including the recently announced trilateral West German, French and British effort to develop a third generation anti-tank missile. The scientists’ real test will be in the successful development of the automatic homing system of the missile as 5SdSKP (single shot kill probability) of less than 80 per cent is unlikely to be acceptable to the user.
Developments in the air defence field already appear to be promising. Trishul is being developed as a low level, quick reaction missile system with a multi-role capability. In addition to its anti-aircraft capability, Trishul will be able to perform as an anti-sea skimming missile against missiles such as Harpoon and Exocet and as an anti-radiation missile against enemy radars and other emitters. The missile will have an effective range of upto 9 km and will work on the principle of command guidance from a ground radar system and on-board control systems. The Trishul would be a truck-mounted system capable of springing into action in under 10 seconds. It will provide effective low-level air defence capability to ground forces both while on the move and when static. Trishul has already been flight tested successfully and after user trials later this year, commercial production is expected to begin in 1990.
The second SAM in an advanced stage of development is Akash, a medium range anti-aircraft missile with the second stage being based on a ram-jet propulsion system. The missile will be supported by a phased array tracking radar which will enable simultaneous launches against different targets. Target acquisition, tracking and engagement will be fully automated. The Akash system will provide air defence to area targets and is likely to be fielded for user trails by 1992. Both Trishul and Akash SAMs will incorporate advanced EW (Electronic Warfare) techniques to prevent enemy interference. The missiles are also expected to have at least a dual mode guidance system to ensure optimal efficiency.
The recent test launch of the Prithvi SSM marked a watershed in the nation’s quest to indigenously develop tactical .guided missiles and placed India in the forefront in this critical area monopolised by a few countries. Prithvi, fuelled by a single-stage liquid propellant motor, can carry a 100 Kg warhead to a maximum range of approximately cOO km. The navigation system is based on inertial guidance with the help of which navigational errors are constantly measured and corrected by an on-board computer. The missile is expected to achieve a small enough CEP (Circular Error Probable) to enable point targets to be attacked with precision.
Prithvi class SSMs are a welcome addition to India’s defence capabilities and potential as a regional power. These missiles also provide an effective delivery means for nuclear warheads, should the country ever decide to go nuclear. With a solid propellant stage added on, Prithvi would become an IRBM (Inter-mediate Range Ballistic Missile). However, no such plans appear to be on the anvil for the time being.
Indian breakthroughs in missile technology have acquired an even greater significance in view of the seven nation embargo on the proliferation of missile technology announced barely 15 days before the test flight of Trishul. The USA, Canada, France, West Germany, Italy, the UK and Japan have established a Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) to control the export of products and technologies related to military ballistic missiles, civilian meteor sounding rockets, space launch vehicles and RPVs. The MTCR underscores the fact that India must strive for self-reliance in this important facet having a major bearing on its future defence preparedness.
Indigenous missile development will have much wider spin-offs for the country’s industry as work on related areas such as materials, radar, computer simulation, propellants, guidance and communications technology will provide a much needed impetus ‘to research and development in these fields. As the missiles will be purely Indian systems, the enemy will be unable to ascertain their exact capabilities and vulnerabilities except on the actual battlefield and will hence be hindered in his attempt to counter them.
The successes of IGMP so far point to a bright future for indigenous missiles and have obliterated memories of two earlier missile development projects which had been unsuccessful. The IGMP will fill a critical void in India’s defence efforts and greatly contribute to establishing the country’s rightful claim to a regional power status in south Asia.