Air Defense: Trishul Staggers To The Finish Line


May 23, 2007: After India has decided to extend, by another year, the development of its Trishul anti-aircraft missile system, it has discovered more problems. This despite having several successful test firings. There are still problems with the guidance system (glitches in 3-beam accuracy, and getting millimeter wave radar components from a foreign supplier.) The Trishul system is no stranger to problems. The project was cancelled in 2003, after two decades of failure and cost overruns. But developing weapons is politically popular, and worth lots of money to Indian manufacturers, and corrupt Indian politicians. Although cancelled, the project was kept going for research purposes, or on the odd chance that it might eventually prove superior to the Barak system that is being purchased from Israel, to do what Trishul was designed to do. Barak works, but Trishul is made-in-India, and that counts for a lot. India is determined to develop a domestic arms industry that can design and build world class systems. This takes time, and involves a lot of embarrassing situations like this.

Trishul has been in development since 1983. First test firing took place in 1991, and the manufacturer declared test firings completed by 1998. The armed forces, however, rejected the missile, as not ready for service. So development continued, until 2003, when the project was cancelled. But the project, which has cost nearly $200 million so far, had political friends. Development was allowed to continue, even though neither the army or the navy wants it. The missile has a range of some nine kilometers, and has suffered mainly from persistent reliability problems, particularly with its guidance system.




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