Come July 17, the ITR at Chandipur-at-Sea will play host to the maiden test-firing of the long-awaited 150km-range ‘Prahaar' (to strike) surface-to-surface quick-reaction tactical non-line-of-sight (NLOS) battlefield support surface-to-surface missile, which has been under development for the past four years. First unveilled early last year in scale-model form at the booth of Larsen & Toubro during DEFEXPO 2010, the ‘Prahaar’ will be a road-mobile NLOS weapon—similar to the BrahMos supersonic multi-role cruise missile—with each motorised transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) carrying six cannisterised, vertically-launched missiles armed with conventional warheads. A separate wheeled vehicle is being developed to act as a missile resupply station, carrying six cannistered missile rounds. In fact, it would not be wrong to claim that the 'Prahaar' is an Israel Aerospace Industries-built EXTRA long-range artillery rocket with Indian characteristics. Thus, the solid-fuelled ‘Prahaar’ is, in essence, a product that overcomes all the deficiencies displayed by the Prithvi family of battlefield support missiles (the SS-150, SS-250 and SS-350), which makes uses of liquid fuel and is consequently cumbersome both in terms of transportation and launch readiness procedures. Furthermore, the Prithvi was never a quick-reaction system and its flight trajectory can be easily tracked by early warning radars as it is a single-stage missile. In contrast, the ‘Prahaar’ reportedly boasts a three-element flight-control system, with the third and final stage comprising only the manoeuvring warhead section. The ‘Prahaar’ will eventually replace all existing Prithvi SS-150 missiles that are now deployed by the three Missile Groups attached to the Indian Army’s two Field Artillery Divisions.
A photo of the scale-model of the TEL carrying the ‘Prahaar’ can be seen at:
Introduction of such a new precision-guided munition (PGM) is bound to pose some unique challenges to a ground forces commander’s operational art. Just to get an idea of what such challenges might be, I’ve enclosed below an interesting development now taking place within Israel, involving the application of similar PGMs:
A power struggle has erupted between Israel’s IDF-Air Force and the IDF’s Ground Forces Command (GFC) over the training of air support officers to be deployed in infantry units. The air support officers are to assist the units in coordinating air strikes during large operations. The position of air support officer was established following the Second Lebanon War in 2006 and grew in importance after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in 2009. Up until now, the positions have been filled by reservist pilots stationed in infantry and armoured brigades; the pilots undergo special training with the ground forces to learn how to direct air support where IDF troops operate. Now, however, the GFC has asked the General Staff to create the post not just within brigades but also within battalions and even companies. Currently, if a battalion commander wants aerial support, he cannot speak directly with pilots, but needs to put in a request to the brigade where the air support officer then coordinates the strike. Due to this indirect process, the IAF demands that the distance between the target and the nearest IDF troops in the area be at least 1,000 metres. “This is not an effective process,” one senior IDF officer said, “not to mention that in other Western militaries the distance required is around 300 metres and not 1,000.” The IDF-AF, however, says it does not have enough reservist pilots for the role. The GFC has suggested the IDF-AF take some of its squad leaders and train them to become air support officers, but the IAF rejected the proposal, contending that someone who was not a pilot could not fill the position--even though army officers do so in other Western militaries. The issue recently came up at a meeting of the General Staff and, despite the IDF-AF’s opposition, is said to be close to resolution--either by training squad leaders for the positions, or having the GFC buy new rocket systems that would reduce its dependence on air strikes. The GFC recently made an attempt to procure advanced and accurate rocket systems and, despite the IAF’s objections, it is now seeking a budget for the rocket systems as part of the IDF’s new multi-year plan, set to begin in 2011. One candidate is the Accular, developed by Israel Military Industries. It is a 60mm. autonomous surface-to-surface missile guided by a GPS system that puts it within a few meters of a target. The rocket, designed to destroy artillery batteries and infantry command posts, was successfully tested earlier this year in southern Israel. If these rockets are purchased, the GFC would be able to reduce its current level of dependence on IAF air support. This would take some of the load off the IDF-AF and allow it to focus strictly on strategic targets deep in enemy territory. With the new rocket systems, the IDF would create a division of responsibility between the Artillery Corps and IDF-AF to clarify who is responsible for which targets and at which ranges.