Bridging the ATGM Shortage

The MoDs recent decision to procure Spike ATGM to bridge the inventory gap has set some speculations. The author analyses the requirement and likely emerging scenario.

Indian Army has approx 400 units and the units deployed in the plains are supposed to be armed with four medium-range and long-range ATGM launchers each (each with six missiles). The units in Mountains Division are required to be equipped with one Launcher of each type along with six missiles. With such scale the authorization, the requirement is of over 80000 different kinds of ATGMs. As of now the IA does not have even half of that number in the inventory i.e. a shortage of over 43,000 missiles (approximately 50%) of its requirement. India's requirement of ATGM is presently being met by the licensed production of Milan and Konkurs as its own development of Nag missiles has met repeated delays and does not meet user's aspirations. The existing inventory is as under:

NameOrigin Inventory HeldRemarks
 Nag   India --  Project delayed. Third generation fire and forget IIR Guided ATGM developed indigenously, 443 missiles were ordered by Army.
 Milan 2  France


4100 second generation Milan-2T 

 MILAN 30,000 produces under license in India. MILAN 2Ts purchase from France.
 9M113 Konkurs (AT-5 Spandrel)   Soviet Union JSC Tulsky Oruzheiny Zavod


10,000 that are now being supplied off-the-shelf by Russia

 Total --  39000   4600 Launchers

Recently the MoD has cleared the long pending purchase of 8,356 Israeli Spike Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGMs) and 321 launchers from Israel's Rafael Advanced Defence Systems at Rs 3,200 crore, which had the approval of the previous Govt based on the trial evaluation. This purchase has been necessitated most likely to make up the deficiencies of Special Forces of the three services. Although there has been talk on the selection amongst the competitors Spike or Javelin. The rational behind the procurement of Spike over Javelin seems to be:

•    Users were fully satisfied with the Spike during trial evaluation by performance.  However, it was case of Single Vendor but the DAC has the authority to allow such procurement.
•    Comparative cost - While the Javelin is priced at about US$145,000 almost 3 times vis-à-vis Spike- SR which costs about US$55,000 per unit.
•    Most of the Infantry ATGMs (Including the one used by IA as on date) require a crew of two whereas the Spike-SR requires only 1 person to operate, which makes it the preferred choice for both special operations & mountain warfare.
•    USA had not agreed to provide critical technologies of the Javeline missile demanded by India and had also shown reluctance to make available the missiles for being evaluated in the field trials.
•    The contract is likely to be under “Buy and Make” and likely to have licensed-production clauses as Israelis are likely to be more than willing to transfer technology to allow production in India. However, it is not clear whether Transfer of Technology is likely to part of contract or not.

Major deficiencies to the tune of over 34,000 Missiles in the inventory will still exist despite the above procurement. Though there is also the speculation, whether the Spike deal is the final over Javelin, as if the decision would have been taken to order Spike-MRs instead of Javelin, then the number ordered would have been much higher since the IA also requires replacing existing Milan-2s & Milan-2Ts, as it is a 2nd generation missile guided by wire, has short range and requires a skilled and well-trained operator. Also the fact that total budget quoted for this purchase i.e. 3200 cr apparently does not include any additional cost for the ToT. The cost of 8536 Spike itself comes to approx RS. 2800 crores plus at the approximate cost of $55000/million and the remaining 400 cr out of total 3200 cr likely to be the cost of 321 launchers.  Apparently cost of TOT is not factored, though, the news has quoted that BDL is going to manufacture them further.

Initially USA had not agreed to provide critical technologies of the missile demanded by India and had also shown reluctance to make available the missiles for being evaluated in the field trials, however, US has now offered to co-produce and co-develop this missile. The agenda of recent visit of US dignitaries to India and visit of our PM to USA are also relevant in context.  Going by media report, under Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI) the Pentagon supposed to have a dozen proposals to the MoD, offering to co-manufacture and co-develop modern defence equipment with India which included Javelin. The U.S.-India Defence Relationship” has been extended for next 10 years till 2025.

There is also the view that the operational requirements differ and no single weapon system is suited for all types of operations, in all types of terrain & altitudes. The Spike-SR requires only 1 person to operate, which makes it more suitable for special operations & mountain warfare whereas for operations in the plains & deserts, the Javelin is best-suited. Spike is a man-portable 'fire and forget' anti-tank missile that locks on to targets before shooting, whereas Javeline features software that allows the missile to seek, track and destroy tanks. Given the diversity of Indian operational environment and mostly for Plain deployment, there is possibility of procuring more than one variety of ATGMs for totally different missions as the future Requirement.

Though, India has taken the ATGM development programme and have made limited headway in some of the technologies to develop ATGM comparable with the world class systems, however due to limitations in some of the critical technologies the project has not fully met the defence specifications. The likely approach by India to meet its current need by off the shelf procurement of the products as well as the transfer of technology and joint development with the leading missile companies would speed up infrastructural development and self-sufficiency in the field of missile defence.

Maj Gen Dr. Bhupinder Yadav (Retd.)

Maj Gen Dr. Bhupinder Yadav (Retd.)

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