Procurement: January 31, 2004

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: Indias tests on the cancelled Akash and Trishul surface-to-air missiles are a sign that India, once reliant on weapons purchased primarily from Russia and the United Kingdom, has lately become more self-sufficient in producing its own weapons systems. Their work on indigenous missile designs, under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP), managed by the Defense Research Development Organization (DRDO) Indias equivalent to DARPA - has gone on since 1983.

The Trishul is a point-defense missile that had been slated for use on the Delhi-class destroyers and Improved Godavari (later the Brahmaputra)-class frigates. The system, roughly comparable to the Russian SA-N-4 and SA-N-9 systems, had a range of nine kilometers and could deliver a 15-kilogram warhead against sea-skimming anti-ship missiles like the Exocet and Harpoon, both of which are in use by Indias most likely adversary, Pakistan. System development encountered numerous delays, and while the ground system was adopted by the Indian Army and Air Force, the Navy went with the Israeli Barak, which has a ten-kilometer range and a 22-kilogram warhead, for the Bhramaputra-class frigates. The Delhi-class destroyers received the Russian SA-N-7 Gadfly, a naval version of the SA-11. The Barak, which is primarily used on the Saar V-class corvettes, has also been purchased by Venezuela.

Indias other surface-to-air missile is the Akash. Widely reported to be similar to the Patriot, due to the capabilities of the Rajenda radar system to track 64 targets simultaneously, the specifications available appear to instead point towards capabilities consistent with the early versions (MIM-23A) of the HAWK (Homing All the Way Killer) missile. Both the Trishul and the Akash were cancelled due to delays in development and deployment, but the test program is continuing to give Indias researchers experience they can use in future programs.

Indias Agni ballistic missile has already been deployed as part of Indias efforts to develop a nuclear deterrence force. The Angi, first launched in 1989, and the Agni-II, both currently deployed, carry either one-ton conventional warheads or nuclear warheads. The Agni-III is slated to begin test launches this year.

India also has three other missiles in development: the Nag, the Astra, and the Brahmos. All three are tactical missiles. The Nag is a third-generation anti-tank missile with a range of four to six kilometers and imaging infra-red guidance, which allows for a fire and forget capability. It is slated for use by the Indian Army and Air Force, with pre-production orders having been placed.

The Indian Armys version of the Nag will likely be mounted on a variant of a tracked armored personnel carrier. Indias primary armored personnel carrier is the BMP-2, produced locally and called the Sarath. The Air Force version will be used on the indigenously-designed and produced Advanced Light Helicopter, called the Dhruv. The chopper will carry twin launchers. A single launcher for the Nag has been developed for Indias Cheetah attack helicopters, which are licensed versions of Suds Alouette II scout/attack helicopters.

The Astra is an air-to-air missile designed for use on Indias current fighters - primarily the MiG-29, Su-30MKI, Mirage 2000, and the Light Combat Aircraft. The latter aircraft has been designed and built in India. The Astra is a long-range missile (100-kilometer range) with a fifteen-kilogram warhead. Like the AMRAAM, it is a fire-and-forget missile. The Astra has more range than the AMRAAM (which is widely quoted as having a range anywhere from 50-70 kilometers).

The last missile, and arguably the most interesting, is the Brahmos. Indias DRDO and the Russian Mashinostroyenia design bureau are developing this anti-ship missile together. The Brahmos is capable of supersonic speed and has a range of 290 kilometers, a 300-kilogram warhead, and can be launched from aircraft, submarines, ships, and coastal batteries. The missile was carefully designed to avoid conflict with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). There is a chance Brahmos could also carry a nuclear warhead, giving Indias Kilos and Type 209 class submarines (along with any future submarine class) a role in Indias growing nuclear arsenal.

While success is not assured, Indias work on indigenous missile systems is unique. At a minimum, it will supplement the foreign systems, although Indias goal is to become self-sufficient. Partially, this has been done through licensed production, but Indias missile program is one of the areas where indigenous designs are making inroads and could completely supplant foreign designs in the near future. Harold C. Hutchison

 


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