Whenever hyper-speculative media hype originates from certain claims made by an over-zealous corporate house, the end-result always tantamount to putting the cart before the horse. And this is exactly what has happened in case of the Indian Army’s requirement of third-generation, manportable ATGMs. 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 Bharat Dynamics Ltd-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 third-generation Nag fire-and-forget ATGMs along with 13 DRDO-developed NAMICA tracked ATGM launchers.
It was in 2003 that Indian Army HQ had formulated a General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQR) for acquiring the Milan-2T, armed with a tandem-warhead. The tandem warhead was to be licence-built by BDL. The GSQR of the in-service Milan-2 had provided for an essential range as 1,850 metres and a desirable range of 2,000 metres. The GSQR of 2003 for the Milan-2T had indicated the range as 2,000 metres. The RFP for procurement of 4,100 Milan-2Ts was issued to BDL in January 2007. The MoD’s Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) did not find the product offered by BDL compliant with the GSQR as the range of 2,000 metres offered had only 1,850 metres under wire-guidance phase, while the last 150 metres was left unguided (along with the first 75 metres after missile launch). The case for procurement was therefore closed in May 2007. Subsequently, BDL confirmed that the guidance-range of the Milan-2T would be 2,000 metres. The case was re-opened and trials of the Milan-2T were conducted in February 2008. Based on the firing trial results, Indian Army HQ did not recommend its introduction into service in view of difficulties in engaging moving targets during the last 150 metres. In addition, the requirement was not met in terms of flight-time and overall weight. Furthermore, third-generation ATGMs were already available in the global market by June 2006. Based on representations from the staff union of BDL to the then Minister of State for Defence Production & Supplies (since non-placement of orders for Milan-2Ts would result in redeployment of BDL’s workforce and already procured materials common to Milan-2/-2T would have to be junked), it was decided to procure a minimum required quantity of Milan-2Ts in May 2008 by amending the GSQR in August 2008 for the Milan-2T with 1,850 metres range and with the waiver of in-country firing-trials, after considering the long lead-times required for procuring third-generation ATGMs, and the fact that the shelf-life of existing stocks of Milan-2 would expire by 2013. The revised RFP was issued to BDL in September 2008 as per the amended GSQR. The MoD concluded a procurement contract with BDL in December 2008 for the supply of 4,100 Milan-2T ATGMs at a cost of Rs.587.02 crore with a staggered delivery schedule to be completed within 36 months from the effective date of contract.
The Indian Army had zeroed in on the third-generation FGM-148 Javelin as far back as 2008 after it had conducted in-country summer user-evaluations of the RAFAEL of Israel-built Spike-ER ATGM. During these evaluations, seven out of the 10 missiles fired missed their targets because their on-board uncooled long-wave infra-red (LWIR) sensors failed to distinguish their targets from their surroundings (an identical problem had also beset the Nag ATGM’s uncooled LWIR sensors during user-evaluations). In contrast, the Javelin uses a cooled mid-wave IR (MWIR) sensor that can passively lock-on to targets at up to 50% farther range than an uncooled sensor, thus allowing the firing crew greater and safer standoff distance, and less likely to be exposed to counter-fire. As far as weight is concerned, the cooling equipment adds less than 2 lb per weapon. The uncooled sensor is not only less reliable, but its long-LWIR spectrum is only compatible with a dome made of softer materials that vulnerable to abrasion in harsh environments (e.g. deserts) and consequently require replacement more often. The cooled seeker’s MWIR spectrum allows a durable hardened dome, and it is better than LWIR in discerning threats in certain geographic locations or environmental conditions. An uncooled sensor thus brings increased repairs, decreased operational availability, and dangerous vulnerabilities, while a cooled IIR sensor saves lives, lessens fratricide, minimises collateral damage, lowers risk, and protects its firing platforms/crew.
When the then US Deputy Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, arrived in India on September 16, 2013 for a two-day visit, he came equipped with a proposal aimed at dramatically boosting US-India military-industrial relations. The proposal called for 1) licence-production of the FGM-148 Javelin through 97% transfer of manufacturing technology, but withholding the target recognition algorithms of the MWIR seeker (meaning the seeker’s focal plane array sub-assembly would have to be imported off-the-shelf from Raytheon). 2) co-developing with the DRDO’s Research Centre Imaarat (RCI) and its associated Sensors Research Society (SRS) a fourth-generation version of the Javelin that will feature a dual-mode seeker, hyperbaric warhead, and a longer range of up to 4km. This very same offer, under the auspices of the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), was repeated by the then US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel, who reached India on August 8, 2014 for a three-day visit. In fact, by early 2015 private company VEM Technologies had already fabricated a full-scale prototype of the FGM-148 Javelin (see image below) that was displayed at the Aero India 2015 expo.
On February 19, 2015 the Kalyani Group issued a press-release that announced the formation of a joint-venture company with Israel’s RAFAEL Advanced Defence Systems (see: http://www.kalyanigroup.com/Final%20Press%20Release%20Kalyani%20Group%20Rafael%20JV.pdf), while the official website of Kalyani RAFAEL Advanced Systems Pvt Ltd (see: http://krasindia.com/) had this to say: KRAS is India’s first private sector Missile sub-systems manufacturing entity. Spread across an area of 24,000 square feet, the KRAS plant in Hardware Tech-Park (In the close vicinity of Rajiv Gandhi International Airport) in Hyderabad will enable production of SPIKE ATGM high-end technology systems within the country. It will be engaged in development of a wide range of advanced capabilities like Missile Technology, Command Control and Guidance, Electro-Optics, Remote Weapon Systems, Precision Guided Munitions and System Engineering for Missile Integration. The facility has been designed to meet the top security classification by adopting highest level of security clearance from Indian and Israel Governments.
What was highly perplexing was that the KRAS JV was openly announcing its ability to produce Spike ATGMs when even the MoD had not inked any contract for procuring the Spike ATGMs. It is from this juncture that the ‘desi’ patrakaars’ went on an overdrive to peddle the story about the Spike ATGM’s procurement. Here are some examples of such rumour-mongering:
One news-report, published on September 1, 2016 (http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/tata-power-to-make-javelin-missile-with-lockheed-martin-jv-116083101441_1.html) even went to the extent of claiming that TATA Power SED had formed a Javelin Joint Venture (JJV) with Raytheon and Lockheed Martin for licence-producing the Javelin ATGMs!
In reality, the DRDO has since 2012 been co-developing a third-generation MPATGM along with VEM Technologies. The RCI has since then developed the all-composite rocket motor casing, MEMS-based redundant micro-navigation system (RMNS), as well as a new-generation IIR sensor that employs semiconductors using indium gallium nitride and aluminum gallium nitride alloys for the RCI-developed 1024-element staring focal plane arrays operating in the ultra-violet bandwidth that give better solar radiation rejection. User-evaluations of the definitive MPATGM are expected to commence next year, with bulk production commencing sometime in 2020. Both VEM Technologies and BDL will be contracted for mass-producing the MPATGM. As a fall-back measure, in the event of the RCI-developed MWIR sensor not maturing within the given deadline (primarily due to the challenges of developing the all-important target recognition algorithm), then the option of importing the Javelin’s LWIR sensor sub-assembly for integration with the MPATGM still remains open.
In addition to the MPATGM, the DRDO along with VEM Technologies is also developing a laser-guided 2.75-inch air-to-surface rocket (first shown at the Aero India 2017 expo) that will be launchable from the Rudra, LUH and LCH platforms.