Artillery: Indian SCUD Goes 21st Century


July 23, 2013: India recently announced that it is replacing over a hundred liquid-fuel short-range Prithvi I ballistic missiles with the solid fuel Prahar. While the air force controls long range ballistic missiles, the army has long been supplied with some shorter range Prithvi Is. This is a single stage, road mobile, liquid fuel battlefield support missile that weighs 4.4 tons, is 9 meters (27.3 feet) long, 110cm in diameter, and costs about a million dollars each. Introduced in 1994, the army version has a 150 kilometer range and carries a one ton warhead.

The Prahar is more compact and reliable. It weighs 1.3 tons, is 7.3 meters (23.6 feet) long, and 42cm in diameter, costing less than a million dollars each and carrying a 200 kg (440 pound) warhead. Prahar can be carried and fired from a TEL (Transporter Erector Launcher) that will haul six Prahars, each in a sealed container. Prahar can carry nuclear or conventional warheads and the TEL can fire salvos of up to 6 missiles, each in quick succession. The guidance system brings the missile to within ten meters of its aiming point. This is more than twice as accurate as Prithvi I. Most importantly, a Prahar can be fired within minutes of receiving the order while the Prithvi I takes over an hour to fuel and prepare for launch.

Prithvi I is similar to the old Russian SCUD, which is a direct descendent of the first ballistic missile, the German V-2 in World War II. The U.S. produced the Corporal missile as an equivalent to the SCUD but replaced it with solid fuel missiles in the 1960s. Russia replaced its SCUDS in the 1970s. But a lot of SCUD type missiles remain in service around the world.