At first, let’s check the outline of media claims:
1. The Israeli SPIKE-MR ATGM is selected as the replacement of the current stockpile of 2nd generation ATGMs.
2. The developer of the SPIKE ATGM that is the Rafale of Israel has entered into a JV with Kalyani Group to manufacturer the ATGM in India as per Make In India.
3. The Spike ATGM acquisition program is now canceled.
Now the time for reality check:
For the purpose intended, lets get through the story from the beginning.
Presently, the Indian Army is authorized by the Ministry of Defence(MoD) to have a total of 81,206 ATGMs. In the plains, each Infantry battalion is sanctioned to armed with four medium range(1.8 km) and four long range(4.0 km) ATGM launchers and each launchers with six missiles.
For the mountainous regions each infantry is authorized to armed with one of each type of launchers and the missile count per launcher is the same.
However the reality is way different. Currently army’s total existing inventory of ATGMs stands at only 44,000 units approximately and that includes:
> 10000 Milan-2 ATGM(2nd gen, developer MBDA, license built by BDL(Bharat Dynamics Limited) in India. Guidance SACLOS type wire guidance.)
> 4100 Milan-2T ATGM(All same as Milan-2)
> 15000 9M113M Konkurs-M ATGM(2nd gen, developer Tula Machinery Design Bureau (Tula KBP) and JSC Tulsky Oruzheiny Zavod, license built by BDL (Bharat Dynamics Limited) in India. Guidance SACLOS type wire guidance.)
> 10000 9M113M Konkurs-M ATGM, is being supplied off-the-shelf by Russia’s JSC Tulsky Oruzheiny Zavod.
> 443 Nag ATGM (3rd gen, developer DRDO, guidance type Fire-And-Forget, Active Imaging infrared (IIR) seeker, millimetric wave (mmW active radar homing seeker (under development)
> 13 NAMICA tracked ATGM launchers(All same as Nag)
Interestingly the ATGM stockpile scenario was not quite different in the early 2000 from the current scenario.
Keeping in mind the bad situation of ATGM stockpile, in 2003 Indian Army HQ formulated a General Staff Qualitative Requirement (GSQR) for acquisition of the Milan-2T, armed with a tandem-warhead. The tandem warhead was to be licence-built by BDL. The already in service Milan-2 had an effective range of 1850 meters as per its own GSQR directive so the GSQR for the Milan-2T varient demanded the range of 2000 m.
The RFP was issuied in Jan 2007 for the procurement of 4100 Milan-2T ATGM to BDL. 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. And Guess what, third-generation ATGMs were already available in the global market by June 2006.
Now comes other problems:
1) 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.
2) shelf-life of existing stocks of Milan-2 would expire by 2013.
3) It would require long lead-times for procuring 3rd gen ATGMs.
Based on the representations from the staff union of BDL to the then Minister of State for Defence Production & Supplies, 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.
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.
In the mean time in 2008, Rafael a defence technology company from Israel started in-country user eveluation of their 3rd gen ATGM Spike-ER. During these tests 7 out of 10 units failed to achieve target. Because their on-board uncooled long-wave infra-red (LWIR) sensors failed to distinguish their targets from their surroundings. Its the identical problem that DRDO faced with their NAG ATGMs which also employs the same kind of uncooled long-wave infra-red (LWIR) sensor.
In comparison, the US made 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, minimizes collateral damage, lowers risk, and protects its firing platforms/crew.
That is the main reason that Indian Army had unofficially zeroed in on the third-generation FGM-148 Javelin as far back as 2008.
In September 16, 2013, when the then US Deputy Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, arrived in India, he proposed for two main things about their ATGM.
1)97% technology transfer. Excluding only the target recognition algorithms of their Actively Cooled MWIR Seeker.(Which means the focal plane array sub-assembly of the seeker would have to be imported off-the-shelf from Raytheon.)
2)Co-Development of a fourth-generation version of the Javelin which will feature a dual-mode seeker, hyperbaric warhead, and a longer range of up to 4km with DRDO’s Research Centre Imaarat (RCI) and its associated Sensors Research Society (SRS).
In August 8, 2014, the same offer was repeated by the then US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel under the MOD’s Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI).
In fact, by early 2015 private company VEM Technologies had already fabricated a full-scale prototype of the FGM-148 Javelin that was displayed at the Aero India 2015 expo which they called “Jasmine”.
Meanwhile 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/Fi
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.
Some even went to the extent of claiming that TATA Power SED has formed a Javelin Joint Venture (JJV) with Raytheon and Lockheed Martin for licence-producing the Javelin ATGMs!
This is what happens when 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.
So, When there was no contract inked by MOD then how it can be cancelled? Laughable! Right??
In reality, our DRDO was and is collaborating with the VEM Technologies from 2012 to co-develop a 3rd Gen ATGM MPATGM-
The RCI already developed:
1) all-composite rocket motor casing.
2) MEMS-based redundant micro-navigation system (RMNS).
3) Even, 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.