Development of Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGM)

 Indigenous development of Anti tank Guided Missiles has met repeated delays and did not meet user's aspirations. Army has been keen to go for more advanced and capable ATGMs…..

Indian Army (IA) 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 need for ATGM is presently being met by the licensed production of IInd Gen Milan and Konkurs missile guided by wire has short range and requires a skilled and well-trained operator. DRDO development of Nag missiles has met repeated delays and did not meet user's aspirations.

The acquisition for around 8,356 third-generation Spike ATGMs along with 321 Launchers and 15 training simulators with TOT was initiated in late 2014. After the Defence Acquisition Council cleared the Spike ATGM deal with offset provisions of 30 percent of the value and to transfer technology to Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) for building an estimated 30,000 more Spike missiles in India. In May 2016, Ministry of Defence (MoD) has completed price negotiations with Israel's Rafael Advanced Defence Systems for Spike anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) systems for the Indian Army for an estimated USD1 billion for the procurement of 275 launchers and 5500 spike anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) systems in completed and kit form along with an undisclosed number of simulators for the Indian Army. The $1 billion deal also includes a technology transfer to India’s DPSU Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) to build another 1500 systems and around 30000 additional missiles. Another Indian company Kalyani Strategic Systems will be supplying components and subassemblies and has already signed a joint venture with Rafael in this regards.

Recently the US has now offered Javelin ATGM through the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), under `MAKE II’ to share technology and to co-produce and co-develop future weapon systems in India. Although there have been talks on the selection amongst the competitors Spike or Javelin earlier. The rationale behind shortlisting of Spike over Javelin may be:

  • Users were fully satisfied with the Spike during trial evaluation by performance range up to 2500 meters. However, it was the 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 three 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 one person to operate, which makes it the preferred choice for both special operations & mountain warfare.
  • The USA had not agreed to provide critical technologies of the Javelin 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 the contract or not.


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. 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 with a range of 4000 meters that locks on to targets before shooting, whereas Javelin 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 a possibility of procuring more than one variety of ATGMs for totally different missions as the future Requirement.

In Jan 2018 MoD has scraped the order to buy Spike Anti-Tank Guided Missile from Israel. Now MoD has asked the DRDO to indigenously develop the indigenous Nag ATGM with seeker software as a Man-Portable ATGM for the Army, within the next three to four years. In the meantime, India is likely to procure Spike Missiles for its immediate need from Israel on G2G deal. Looking at DRDO record in development, there are some indications that Army may go for more advanced and capable ATGMs that are now available, i.e., US FGM-148 Javelin, and  “Medium Range Missile”  by MBDA.

Lockheed Martin has now offered Javelin ATGM through the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) between India and the US, under `MAKE II.'  The US is ready to share technology and to co-produce and co-develop future weapon systems in India. Through the efforts of the DTTI, more than 50 percent of the original or pathfinder projects have reached project agreement. Projects including signature aperture radar, hot-engine technology for indigenous light combat aircraft and stealth-coating technology are critical for widening the scope for DTTI cooperation.

Indigenous Development

DRDO has also been working on the third-generation ATGM Nag which is in an advanced stage of testing, fired from the Nag Missile Carrier (NAMICA).

The indigenously developed Man Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile (MPATGM) is a 3rd Gen ATGM, which has been under development by DRDO since 2015. This missile is fitted with a high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead and has a maximum engagement range of about 2.5 Km. It has undergone necessary Static and Flight test and will have to go for Users trials. The mass production of the MPATGM is likely to start in 2021at Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) unit at Bhanur. Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) is the nodal agency with the support of sister DRDO laboratories; RCI, HEMRL, TBRL, ARDE, and IRDE.

MPATGM Weapon System consists of three major separate elements:

  • (I.) The missile in a Launcher Tube called the weapon round
  • (II.) The Command Launch Unit including Thermal Sight (TS), Gunner Display, Command Control Unit, and Battery.
  • (III.) The Launcher or Tripod.

Launcher System is to be light and user-friendly with following functionalities: System power and health checks; missile seeker cooling; provision to display TAS and missile seeker images; display controls; target acquisition through thermal/day sight; and thermal battery and launch motor firing.

Some of the critical technologies realised during the project are:

IIR Seeker

The third-generation ATGM having fire and forget capability works on the homing signal provided by a miniature Image Infrared Seeker (IIR) housed in its front end for guidance. Configuring the optical module to focus the image on the detector and realisation of the signal processing electronics to achieve the 2.5 km range with the available space within a missile of 120 mm diameter was really a challenging task.

Propulsion System

The propulsion system for the missile necessitated the design of a complex system with a launch motor for ‘soft launch’ of the missile from the launch tube followed by the firing of the main motor in flight at a safe distance of around 10 meters from the launcher to provide safety to the operator.

A jet vane mechanism has been configured in the nozzle end of the blast tube to exercise the thrust vector control in the launch phase. The main motor of this miniaturized missile comprises a dual thrust rocket motor with a boost phase and a sustainer phase to achieve top attack capability against a maximum range trajectory of 2.5 km.

Control Actuation System

The jet vane mechanism is driven by the servo control actuation system, which operates the tail fins of the missile for exercising aerodynamic control through the rest of the trajectory.

The precision servo mechanism consisting of miniature Electro-mechanical actuators and the digital servo controllers to house the space around the blast tube to drive each fins.  Fins, in turn, drive the jet vanes through a linkage mechanism having a 1:1 transmission ratio with sufficient linear operating range.

Tandem Warhead

In the available small volume inside a missile of man-portable class, to design a tandem warhead with a precursor warhead and the main warhead with an RHA penetration > 650 mm was also one of the challenging tasks.

Sub systems Development

Missile system studies, control, and guidance design and the aerodynamic and structural design and testing, etc., for the MPATGM, the design of blast tube-based dual thrust propulsion system with jet vane mechanism for thrust vectoring were carried out in DRDL.

The propellant for Launch Motor and Flight Motor was carried out by HEMRL. Design and development of most of the electronic sub-systems such as IIR Seeker and associated Integral Electronics (INEL), Electro-mechanical actuation system and onboard signal conditioning package and telemetry transmitter, etc., was undertaken by RCI.

The Target Acquisition System (TAS) based on thermal sighting principle is part of the launcher developed by IRDE.

The mechanical parts of the tripod launcher are being designed at DRDL. Its preliminary design is complete and fabrication is under progress. Tandem Warhead of the missile is being developed at TBRL and is in the final stages of realization and testing. Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL) is an industrial development partner.

The missiles in final configuration could be offered for user-assisted flight trials in the first quarter of 2019.

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.

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