SMALLER AN­TI­TANK MIS­SILES FOR THE ARMY

India Today - - UPFRONT - —San­deep Un­nithan

For a coun­try that has de­vel­oped in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles, the fail­ure to de­velop a 4 km range mis­sile to de­stroy bat­tle tanks is a co­nun­drum. Last year, the De­fence Re­search and Devel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) com­pleted the devel­op­ment of the Nag, the last of its In­te­grated Guided Mis­sile Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme (IG­MDP) mis­siles that be­gan in 1983. Suc­cess­ful tri­als of the Nag in 2016 and 2017 have fi­nally put the mis­sile on the path to in­duc­tion by the army, 35 years after the pro­gramme be­gan. The Nag’s luck seems to have rubbed off on a new pro­ject to build a smaller man-portable an­ti­tank guided mis­sile (MPATGM). The MPATGM was suc­cess­fully tested by the DRDO on Septem­ber 15 and 16 at an army fir­ing range in Ahmed­na­gar, Ma­ha­rash­tra, and met all its per­for­mance pa­ram­e­ters.

“The suc­cess­ful test of the Nag has given us a lot of con­fi­dence and we

have now mas­tered most of the crit­i­cal tech­nolo­gies per­tain­ing to anti-tank guided mis­siles (ATGMs),” says a se­nior DRDO of­fi­cial. Among the most dif­fi­cult as­pects is the devel­op­ment of an in­fra-red seeker that is able to dis­tin­guish a tar­get from the clut­ter of a bat­tle­field, es­pe­cially in high tem­per­a­ture con­di­tions.

While each 4 km range Nag mis­sile weighs over 40 kg and is car­ried into bat­tle by a NAM­ICA (Nag mis­sile car­rier)-tracked ve­hi­cle based on an ar­moured per­son­nel car­rier, the MPATGM is a com­par­a­tive feath­er­weight at 14.5 kg and, as its des­ig­na­tion sug­gests, is meant to be hefted into the bat­tle­field by sol­diers. Once launched, the mis­sile can home in to at­tack the top of en­emy tanks, where they are most vul­ner­a­ble, at ranges of be­tween 200 m and 2.5 km.

The mis­sile, be­ing de­vel­oped in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Hyderabad-based pri­vate sec­tor firm VEM Tech­nolo­gies,

is an emerg­ing suc­cess story for a pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship.

The MPATGM would com­plete all its tri­als in the next six months and be handed over to the army for user eval­u­a­tion next year. Go­ing by the Nag ex­pe­ri­ence, these are rad­i­cal time­lines. The MPATGM pro­ject was started three years ago un­der the govern­ment’s Make in In­dia pro­gramme to meet the army’s re­quire­ment of over 80,000 ATGMs by field­ing an in­dige­nously de­signed, de­vel­oped and man­u­fac­tured mis­sile.

In Jan­uary this year, the de­fence min­istry scrapped a plan to im­port 8,000 ‘Spike’ ATGM mis­siles and 300 launch­ers from Is­rael. In­stead, the Cabi­net Com­mit­tee on Se­cu­rity is to shortly green­light a govern­ment-to­gov­ern­ment deal for pur­chas­ing 5,000 Spike ATGMs from Is­rael.

The rest of the army will get the DRDO-built MPATGM over the next few years.

THE NEW WEAPON

In­dige­nously de­vel­oped MPATGM was suc­cess­fully tested on Sept. 16

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